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France sets up online advice site for people worried they have coronavirus

France has launched a new website with advice for people worried they may have coronavirus.

France sets up online advice site for people worried they have coronavirus
The online test can offer advice on who needs to consult a doctor. Photo: AFP

The site, approved by the French health ministry, offers a way for people to get more information about whether they need medical attention or may be suffering from coronavirus.

France is currently not doing blanket testing of the population, and only people who fit a fairly narrow set of criteria are tested.

READ ALSO Coronavirus testing in France – how does it work and who gets tested?


France’s health minister Olivier Véran has admitted that the lack of widespread testing means that the number of confirmed cases in France – currently more than 16,000 – is a serious underestimate of the number of people who actually have it.

The test was developed as a medical guide, and to offer advice to people who are worried. Although the site cautions users that it does not offer a firm diagnosis and is not intended as a replacement for a medical consultation.

“The test is not a diagnosis, but rather a health assessment so that people know where to turn,” Dr. Fabrice Denis, a member of the newly established Digital Alliance Against COVID-19, which developed the test, told AFP.  

The site (which is in French) asks a number of questions about symptoms, whether people have a cough, a fever, fatigue, a loss of the sense of smell and other possible indicators of coronavirus.

It then asks for general health information such as age, height and weight and then assesses the risk of the patient by asking about underlying conditions such as diabetes, serious respiratory illness or any illnesses that suppress the immune system.

Based on your answers it then offers medical advice such as whether you should contact your doctor or an ambulance or whether you are not at risk.

The test can be accessed online here.

In general the medical advice is that if you believe you have coronavirus and have serious symptoms including difficulty breathing you should call the ambulance number – 15.

If you believe you have the illness but have less serious symptoms contact your usual doctor by phone, or set up an online appointment. Do not go to hospital or your doctor’s surgery, and try to avoid leaving your home if at all possible.

You can also get advice about non-medical matters from the coronavirus helpline – 0800 130 000.

Find the latest on the situation in France here.


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‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief.