As France continues to emerge from a pandemic that held the country in its grip over the past year and a half, notable changes, both financial and societal, are helping bring the country back to a state of normalcy, with Nov. 1 as their starting point.
From Monday, all restaurants, bars, and cafes that had resurrected outdoor terraces to provide additional seating during the pandemic will now have to dismantle them. Droves of establishments utilized every inch of outside space where there had been none -- including parking spaces and the street -- just after the lockdown was lifted last May.
The warmer months coincided well with the government’s permission to utilize outdoor space to keep customers coming. Officials had imposed strict conditions over how many people could be allowed into establishments -- none at first, then only 6 people per table as time went on. Intimate spaces were deemed one of the biggest loci in the spreading of the disease.
Despite three waves that have swept the country and two lockdowns -- the second lasting seven months -- France’s numbers are way down from the skyrocketing figures that had once dominated headlines.
According to the Health Ministry, 6,329 COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths have been registered over the last 24 hours. A year ago at this time, case numbers were in the mid-five figures and deaths near triple-digit.
To date, 117,683 people have perished from COVID-19 in France, with total cases exceeding 7.1 million. More than 51 million people have received at least one jab of a vaccine, out of a total population of just over 67 million.
France has also put in place a ban on housing evictions until March 31, 2022, otherwise known as “the winter break,” offering up a welcomed reprieve for those in need. A 30% reduction in the housing tax has also been applied for the 20% of the population who are liable to it.
One of the biggest hot-button issues, and one that saw weeks of protests in 2018 and 2019, is also back in the headlines. According to the daily Le Monde, the government has put a freeze on gas prices which will not be raised again until the end of 2022 (they had risen by 12.6% in October alone). Prime Minister Jean Castex announced “a tariff shield” at the end of September that will serve to block the regulated gas tariff. Energy prices are soaring throughout Europe, up 300% in some areas over the past month.
It is the first time since April and only the second time in 17 months that gas prices will not go up.
Another major issue for French society, and one that too caused lengthy strikes, is pensions. A revaluation of 1% will occur in the annual amount of supplementary pensions private employees receive through AGIRC-ARRCO, according to Le Monde.
AGIRC-ARRCO is the body that represents all non-union wage earners, including executives, and manages the supplementary pension schemes for those in the private sector -- industry, trade, services, and agriculture. The change will affect 13 million private-sector employees.