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Coronavirus: The everyday precautions you can take to stay safe in France

The Local France
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Coronavirus: The everyday precautions you can take to stay safe in France
All photos: AFP

If you're in France or planning a trip you may be concerned about the coronaviris cases that have been reported in the country. Here's the latest official advice on keeping safe (Paywall Free).


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Compared to countries like Italy and China, France has reported far fewer cases of coronavirus so far, but the French president Emmanuel Macron has warned that the epidemic is just beginning.

Follow our live coverage on the latest situation in France here.

While this sounds scary, it should be remembered that the World Health Organisation states that of the people who get the virus, 80 percent will have only mild symptoms.

Just five percent of cases become critical and the majority of the people who have died from the illness have been either elderly or had underlying health problems.

Nevertheless, it pays to be cautious. So here is the latest advice from the French government on the health precautions you can be taking.


  • Wash hands your thoroughly and often with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing or before eating or it you have been touching surfaces that many other people will have touched such as on the Metro
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Cover your mouth with your elbow when coughing
  • Use disposable tissues and throw them away after use
  • Clean off surfaces with alcohol- or chlorine-based disinfectants.
  • Avoid shaking hands

There's even a handy dance video to help you remember


As the elderly appear to be the most vulnerable to the virus, French president Emmanuel Macron has asked people to stop visiting elderly relatives and friends, in order to protect them from virus transmission.

The French government has set up a “green number” that people can call for any non-medical coronavirus-related questions. The line will be open all week from 8am until 9pm.

The number is 0 800 130 000. There are also daily updates on its website here.

Should I be wearing a mask?

The French government has put in a massive order for surgical masks, but these are high-spec ones for health workers.

The official advice is that you only need to wear a mask if you have cold or flu-like symptoms or if you have recently returned from an area that has a coronavirus outbreak.

The mask is to stop you potentially spreading infection. Other people do not need to wear a mask, and they will not protect you against the illness.

You are also asked not to buy a mask if you do not need one, as this could create shortages for people who are advised to wear them.

What about if I have been to Italy or one of the other outbreak zones?

If you have recently returned from China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Singapore, South Korea, Iran or the Lombardy or Veneto regions of Italy, the French government is asking you to self-isolate for 14 days to ensure that you do not have symptoms.

What does self isolating involve?

Well firstly if you're self isolating that's not the same as being in medical isolation, so there's no need to brick up all your windows and install air filters.

The French authorities are merely advising you to avoid "unnecessary contact" and monitor your health. Trips to the shops are not banned, so there is no need to start stockpiling and panic-buying.

The virus has a 14 day incubation period, so if you have recently returned from one of the infected zones, health authorities ask you to do the following for 14 days;

  • Monitor your temperature twice a day
  • Watch for symptoms of respiratory infection (cough, difficulty breathing)
  • Wear a surgical mask when you are in front of another person and when you have to go out
  • Wash your hands regularly or use a sanitiser gel
  • Avoid any contact with vulnerable people (pregnant women, those with ongoing health problems, elderly people
  • Avoid frequenting places where vulnerable people are present (hospitals, maternity wards, old people's homes)
  • Avoid all non-essential outings (large gatherings, restaurants, cinema)
  • Workers/Students: as far as possible, choose home working and avoid close contact (meetings, lifts, canteen)
  • Children should not be sent to school or nursery

READ ALSO Coronavirus: What are the rules on working from home in France?

What should I do if I think I have it?

If you think you have the illness do not go to hospital or your doctor's surgery. French health authorities are worried about potentially infected people turning up at hospitals and passing on the virus.

Instead call an ambulance and tell the operator it is a suspected case of coronavirus. The ambulance number in France is 15.

READ ALSO Emergency in France - who to call and what to say

French vocab

Fièvre - fever

Maux de tête - headache

Courbatures - aches

Toux - cough

Difficultés respiratoires - breathing difficulties

Un rhume - a cold

La grippe - the flu

Coronavirus - coronavirus

SAMU - the French ambulance service, or service d'aide médicale urgente, to give them their full name 


The Local's mission is to give our readers all the information they need about what's happening in France. We rely on paying members to do that, but we have chosen not to put any of our articles about the coronavirus behind our hard paywall, to help keep all of our readers informed. We believe it is the right thing to do at this time.
This means that new or occasional readers can read articles for free. On urgent need-to-know articles and official advice about coronavirus, we are also dropping the paywall completely. That includes this article. 
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We hope our paying members understand why we have chosen to make these articles about the coronavirus free for everyone, but if you have any questions, please let me know.
As for the coronavirus, you can read all our articles here.
Kind regards,
Editor, The Local France




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