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France’s coronavirus tracking app won’t be rolled out until at least June 2nd

France starts the first phase of easing its lockdown on May 11th, but the coronavirus tracing app will not be ready for full use until June 2nd, the Digital Affairs Minister has revealed.

France's coronavirus tracking app won't be rolled out until at least June 2nd
Digital affairs minister Cedric O. Photo: AFP

Minister Cedric O said that development of the StopCovid app, which aims to track cases and alert people who have come into contact with someone who has the virus, is progressing well.

But he told BFMTV that more testing was still needed, so it will not be ready for the first phase of the lifting of lockdown, which begins on May 11th.

READ ALSO What is France's coronavirus tracker and how does it work?

“Development time is progressing relatively well. Next week we'll enter the test phase, which means we'll reproduce real-life situations to check that the app works well.
 
“This would allow us, I think, if the Prime Minister and ministers decide to do so, to ensure that we can come back to parliament in the week of May 25th to consider deployment during the second phase of déconfinement from June 2nd”.
 
When unveiling phase 1 of lifting the lockdown rules, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that the government's strategy was 'protect, test and isolate'.
 
By May 11th, the government is on track to perform 700,000 tests a week, but there will not be blanket testing of everyone in France.
 
The StopCovid app aims to help the government perform targeted testing by identifying people who have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, and sending them an alert inviting them to be tested.
 
It has already run into several problems, including problems with Google and Apple.
 
There have also been concerns about privacy and the government had been forced to make it clear that using the app is voluntary.
 
The Minister added: “We are not sure that the solution proposed by Apple and Google is the right one, but we think it is.
 
“It is because of these problems, not because Apple and Google are big bad wolves, that we have refused to go through their solutions.”
 
The first phase of lifting lockdown rules in France runs from May 11th to June 2nd. No details have yet been released on what phase 2 involves and it will depend heavily on the healthcare situation after phase 1.

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HEALTH

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

Experts have warned of a particularly bad flu epidemic this winter in France due to a combination of lowered immune systems and 'vaccine apathy' - urging high-risk groups to get their shot as soon as the flu vaccination campaign begins in October.

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

France’s annual flu vaccine campaign will officially get under way on October 18th this year – and medical experts have warned that this year’s season may be a bad one amid fears of “vaccine apathy”.

When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters in France this autumn

Immunologist Alain Fischer, who chaired France’s Conseil d’orientation de la stratégie vaccinale throughout the Covid-19 pandemic said that the high number of flu cases in Australia and the southern hemisphere in its winter were “a warning sign” that this winter’s flu, coupled with rising cases of Covid-19, could lead to a sharp rise in hospitalisations again in the winter.

“For two years, influenza has been kept at bay, thanks to the barrier measures we have put in place against Covid,” he told Le Parisien. 

“This year, it will be difficult to maintain the same level of protection: masks, distancing, intensive hand washing … Faced with this relaxation, there is a serious risk of flu epidemic.”

Between two million and six million people contract flu every winter in France. The infection is responsible for between 4,000 and 6,000 deaths every year, usually among people aged 65 and over. But in ‘bad’ flu years, that mortality figure can rise rapidly.

READ ALSO When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

The country, meanwhile, is at the start of what is being described as an “eighth wave” of Covid, and the Haute Autorité de santé recommends the eligible, vulnerable people ensure they are vaccinated against both viruses as early as possible. “A Covid-flu cohabitation is not a good thing,”  Fischer said. “It is synonymous with a very high number of hospitalisations. 

“Hence the objective of two strong vaccination campaigns – Covid and flu – especially for the most vulnerable.”

“The double injection is very good, and practical for patients. But I think that we should not wait, especially vulnerable people. It is a mistake to think that you will get your Covid booster when the flu vaccine is here – the Covid jab should not be delayed.”

Currently less than 40 percent of people eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine have received their latest dose.

Dual-strain Covid-19 vaccines designed to combat both delta and omicron variants will be available in France from October 3rd.

READ ALSO France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

“It is quite possible to get your Covid injection in early October and flu vaccine in late October – you will need both anyway,” Fischer said.

The Haute Autorité de Santé recommends influenza vaccination for the following groups:

  • people aged 65 and over; 
  • people with chronic diseases; 
  • pregnant women;
  • people suffering from obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 40 kg/m 2 );
  • Infants under 6 months at risk of serious influenza;
  • Families and others close to immunocompromised people; 
  • home help workers caring for vulnerable individuals.

For anyone in these groups, the flu vaccine is 100 percent covered by health insurance and delivered free of charge to the pharmacy, on presentation of a voucher.

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