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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.
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.
#Coronavirus Aujourd’hui, la meilleure façon de se protéger, c’est d’adopter les gestes simples recommandés par nos médecins pour lutter contre la propagation du virus :
– se laver les mains une fois par heure
– tousser dans son coude
– utiliser des mouchoirs à usage unique. pic.twitter.com/DJssCnZyuA
— Edouard Philippe (@EPhilippePM) February 27, 2020
- 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.
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
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.
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