Giving meaning to the contradictory social rules of Covid-19 in France


The current health regulations for weddings are an example of the confusion that guidelines can have. In France, couples who get married can invite up to 10 people at the Town Hall, up to 60 in a church and up to 200 in a private place.The range of regulation results from a complex balance of Covid-19 laws, rights and health advice that currently governs life in France.

Restrict private spaces unconstitutional

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the government only has the power to restrict social gatherings in public, not private places.

A specialist in public law told a news source Le Figaro: “Indeed, the legislators did not foresee the need for it in any legal text like the law of May 23 declaring the state of health emergency, or that of July 9 specifying the exit from the state of health emergency .

The specialist said: “If they tried to introduce the possibility of limiting gatherings in living spaces, lawmakers would run into the difficulty of complying with prohibitions when the inviolability of domestic spaces is practically a constitutional right.

This leaves mayors, prefects and regional presidents little power to regulate parties or weddings that take place in private spaces.

As such, local authorities in France have been left behind when it comes to imposing new health laws.

While the July 9 decree gave them sweeping powers to impose new laws as they saw fit to regulate their local health situation, in reality, they do not always have the constitutional right to do so.

Not all public places are considered equal

The same principle of constitutional rights in France led to the removal of restrictions to allow religious ceremonies towards the end of detention. At the start of the two-month imprisonment in France, religious ceremonies were banned, but French law guaranteed the right to freedom of worship by giving those who wished it a legal remedy.

However, French law becomes more difficult to regulate when it comes to gatherings in spaces such as cemeteries, which are both public and religious spaces.

Such loopholes and legalities have led to scenarios such as the Roland-Garros tennis tournament, which exceptionally takes place from September 21 to October 11 of this year, having a severely restricted number of visitors even though the entire tournament will take place in outside.

Meanwhile, French courthouses continue to hold trials in front of the public, even though they often take place in small, confined rooms.

Science also intersects with law to create seemingly contradictory regulations.

When it comes to exercise, dance halls and gyms are much more likely to be regulated than swimming pools. This is because the virus is more likely to be transmitted through air than through water, making it more risky to run or dance near other people than to swim with them.

And another exception – public spaces that are “public services” such as schools and universities are entitled to a level of autonomy in how they manage their space and the public that passes through them.

The government can rely less on the law

When the Minister of Health Olivier Véran announced new restrictions and a new map assessing risk levels across France on September 23, he announced no new law to accompany them.

Some see it as a sign that the government is trying to streamline the system.

Serge Slama, professor of law and public rights at the University of Grenoble, said Le Figaro: “In the same way that it is not necessary to pass new laws or to launch anti-terrorism regulations, two new intermediate zones were created by the public authorities thanks to the law of July 9 which extended the state health emergency. ”

“This makes it possible to tighten up regulations without decreeing the health crisis which has led to a state of health emergency and total isolation.”

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