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COVID-19

Coronavirus: EU warns healthcare capacity could be exceeded

The risk is high that European healthcare systems will be overwhelmed by the new coronavirus outbreak, the EU's health agency warns.

Coronavirus: EU warns healthcare capacity could be exceeded
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also called for a slew of measures to be implemented to halt the spread of the deadly disease – including quarantines of confirmed or suspected carriers and bans on mass gatherings.

The Stockholm-based agency said on Thursday that systems in EU countries and the European Economic Area (EAA) – Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway – along with Britain could be overstretched.

“The risk of healthcare system capacity being exceeded in the EU/EAA and the UK in the coming weeks is considered high,” the ECDC said in a statement.

It also recommended “social distancing” measures at workplaces and cancellation of non-essential work travel and meetings, as well as measures to be taken at schools, including possible closures.

And it urged “cordon… of residential areas with high levels of community transmission”.

Meanwhile, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said in a Twitter post that measures to curb the spread of the disease were “more than ever necessary across EU”.

“Only with aggressive containment action can we delay the transmission of COVID-19. Many member states have already taken far-reaching measures, impacting the daily lives of our citizens and economy,” Kyriakides said.

There are more than 22,000 people infected in Europe, where nearly 950 people have died from the illness. The vast majority, however, experience only mild symptoms and fully recover.

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COVID-19

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body outlined how Covid-19 rules changed starting on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules relaxed in France as the country brought an end to compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes took effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 would return to normal starting February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 now also have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that began at the start of February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.

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