We, like many of you have been watching and following the unfolding of the news related to the spreading of the new Coronavirus – COVID-19. The situation is constantly evolving and it has at times been difficult to see clearly and make the distinction between the facts and the fiction. While countries such as Italy have now moved to an almost complete shutdown of movement, thus taking on pandemic proportions, France still remains at stage 2 of 3 in its response to the epidemic.
We have received numerous emails from concerned clients who are unsure of whether or not they will be able to travel to France in the coming months. We are not doctors or politicians and the ultimate decision as to whether or not to travel should the means of travel remain open, lies with you our clients.
We and our families are also being affected by the current influx of information and we are keeping abreast of any updates that will affect our clients and ourselves. As a result we have modified our standard cancelation and postponement policies in order to more aptly respond to the requests. We are a small team but we are trying our best to be remain as accommodating as we can be given the circumstances.
Below I will try to present you the information we currently have but I encourage you to stay informed on any changes to this information. I am also including the details concerning cancelations of the classes you have booked with us between now and April 30, 2020.
As I said earlier, France is currently at stage 2 of their epidemic response. What is Stage 2?
France has 3 stages of response to epidemics which each have its own responses and protocols.
Stages of epidemic in France
Stage 1 – Prevent the virus
- Closing classes
- Verifying the stock of healthcare supplies
- Putting in place centres of information
- Verifying the state of health of travellers (at ports, airports . . .)
Stage 2 – Slowing down the spreading of the virus
- Stage 2 comes into play once there has been an indication of clusters of infections
- Closing of schools are larger scale (though this does not necessarily refer to the entire country)
- Travel restrictions, telecommuting
- Cancelation of public events
- Regional quarantines
Stage 3 – Reducing the effects of the epidemic
- Reinforcements of health and law enforcement professionals
- Traffic restrictions (e.g. closure of train lines)
- Pupils’ educational continuity plan, short-time unemployment measures . .
Source: Le Parisien
According to the above cited source, the French minister of health feels that we will inevitably get to stage 3 and they are doing all that is in their power to ensure that the government and the health professionals are ready.
Many large events and conventions in France have been canceled as a precaution and while initially the threshold was at 5000 people in attendance at any manifestation it has now been reduced to 1000 people gathering for any event, competition or in public transport as was announced by Switzerland and Germany. These measures will remain in place until April 15th.
Air & Train Travel
Many airlines have put in place a special response to concerns about cancelations. Air France for example is allowing customers to postpone or cancel their scheduled flights if they reserved before the 31st of March. Last I had checked they were allowing you to rebook for dates before the 31st of May as was the case with Delta but it seems now that they may have changed that slightly. The best thing is to check with the airline to be sure what today’s policy is:
So far I think that Air France’s policy has been the most generous so hopefully that’s who you’re flying with. It does mean though that for those who still intend to travel that they may find their flight canceled due to lack of sufficient passengers.
The SNCF (France’s rail service) has proposed to allow postponements and cancelations without charge on TGV and Intercity trains until April 30th.
You can remain informed on what’s happening in Paris through the Paris tourist bureau’s website Parisinfo.com at this link.
UPDATE! as of March 12, 2020
On March 11, 2020, US president, Donald Trump issued a 30-day travel ban on European citizens of 26 countries within the EU from entering the United States. While this ban does not restrict travel of American Citizens to or from the EU, it was advised that American not travel during this period.
Our COVID-19 Cancelation Policy (updated March 12, 2020):
We have updated our cancelation policy in effect now till April 15, 2020 as a response to the Coronavirus, COVID-19 outbreak and the newly issued United States European travel ban. We have taken the decision to close the school until April 13, 2020. For those of you who are already in Paris between March 12th and March 30th, 2020, it is possible that we may still be able to offer the class for which you are scheduled. We will be in contact with you as soon as possible to evaluate the situation. This scheduling is subject to change in accordance with any further changes and restrictions set by the French government.
For all cancelation requests made from March 11, 2020 and for those affected by the school closing during this period we are issuing vouchers valid for up to two years from the original scheduled date of your class. For example, if you booked a class for March 20th 2020, you can receive a credit to rebook the class before March 20th, 2022. At this time we are only able to offer the possibility of postponement. While the voucher will be in your customer account, please note that it can be used by another party should you wish to gift it to someone else.
We strongly suggest that all travellers obtain trip cancellation insurance and that you stay up to date with information on any travel restrictions. This postponement and credit will be issued automatically to all those whose booking falls between April 1st and April 13th, 2020. If you will not be in attendance for a class that is maintained, we would ask that you please contact us as soon as possible so that we may cancel your reservation and confirm the credits are in your account. We will provide you with instructions on how to use those credits for a future booking with us.
All other cancelations for bookings beyond April 30th, 2020 will also receive a credit voucher valid for 2 years. If you do not wish to accept these terms, a refund will be issued according to our standard cancellation policy. Please note that there may be significant delays for any such refund but rest assured that it will be done.
Overall, we hope that things will run their course and life will go back to some sort of normal. We will still be here, we hope, offering you French cooking classes and culinary vacations into the foreseeable future. Thank you all for your continued support.
Here are a few other useful links:
Coronavirus in Paris: All you need to know – Information from the Paris tourist office
An opinion piece from David Leonhardt of the New York Times on the 7 steps to dealing with the coronavirus
Worldometer tracks the reported cases of the virus. Maybe it will reassure you, or maybe it won’t. If nothing else, it may help you put things in perspective.
Article from Dr Paul Sax an Infectious Disease Doctor: What Does (And Doesn’t) Scare Me About The Coronavirus
Should I cancel my trip to Paris because of the coronavirus? From the Local
Jeremy Samuel Faust (Emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston: Covid-19 Isn’t As Deadly As we Think
Jenni Fink of Newsletter – Coronavirus Update Over 50,00 people have recovered from coronavirus around the world, according to Johns Hopkins
An article from a friend and a real doctor (not the Uncle from Wuhan), oncologist, Dr. Marc Braunstein who talks about drawing hope from his patients in “Practicing oncology during COVID-19”
I hope this article has been helpful to you. I’m no expert so I won’t offer expert advice besides saying:
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds
- Carry hand sanitizer for those times that you can’t wash your hands with soap and water
- Sneeze and cough into your elbow
- If you are sick take all the necessary precautions not to infect anyone else
- Stay calm because this too shall pass