Paris police requisition hall at Rungis food market to store bodies of coronavirus victims

Paris police have requisitioned a hall at a vast fresh food market to store the bodies of coronavirus victims already overwhelming funeral homes.

Paris police requisition hall at Rungis food market to store bodies of coronavirus victims
Funeral homes in the Paris area are overwhelmed. Photo: AFP

City police chief Didier Lallement said on Thursday that officials needed a site large enough to handle “current and anticipated needs” as strains on funeral homes “are likely to persist for several weeks.”

Two visitation rooms will be set up for families to gather before the coffins are taken to cemeteries or crematoriums, where authorities have limited attendance to 20 people maximum.

The first coffins will begin arriving on Friday at the Rungis market site south of the capital, and families will be able to pay their respects starting on Monday, Lallement said in a statement.

The Rungis market covers a 24 hectare site on the outskirts of Paris. Photo: AFP

The market – a vast site that usually supplies wholesalers and restauranteurs – has seen several sections closed since the start of the lockdown, although it is offering home deliveries of fresh fruit and vegetables to people in the Paris area.

About a third of the more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths reported in France have occurred in the Paris region, putting intense pressure on hospitals and their staff.

READ ALSO Coronavirus: Vets lend equipment to breaking-point Paris hospitals

Officials this week began evacuating patients from intensive care units in the wider Paris region to areas of France less affected by the outbreak, hoping to move out a total of 150 people by this weekend, the ARS health agency said.

Hospitals are racing to free up beds as the number of patients in critical condition topped 6,000 on Wednesday, surpassing France's pre-outbreak capacity of 5,000 places in intensive care.

The government aims to have 14,000 intensive care beds available in the coming weeks.

France reported on Wednesday 509 deaths in the previous 24 hours, the highest daily toll so far.

But those figures include only deaths in hospital, and do not yet take into account the scores of deaths that have been reported in retirement homes.

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France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body has outlined how Covid-19 rules will change 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 will relax in France as the country ends 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 will take 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 will return to normal on February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 will 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 will begin in 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.