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MAP: France identifies 25 new coronavirus clusters

A total of 25 new coronavirus clusters have now been identified in France - but doctors say that this is actually positive news.

There are now 25 coronavirus clusters in France, spread out around the country and centred on workplaces, hospitals and social gatherings.

But although these sound worrying – particularly the ones in the 'green zones' that have largely escaped the worst effects of the virus so far – doctors say the fact they are being identified is good news in controlling the spread of Covid-19.

 

Every French region except Normandy and Corsica has at least one cluster, with three clusters each in the greater Paris region of Île-de-France, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, Occitanie and Pays-de-la-Loire.

The type of clusters vary, some are linked to social events such as the cluster in Dordogne that was identified after dozens of people gathered after a funeral for the wake, and some are centred on workplaces – there are clusters linked to slaughterhouses in Cotes-d'Amor and Loiret.

 

In the greater Paris region a cluster in Hauts-de-Seine is linked to a block of affordable accommodation for young workers while two clusters – one in Maine-et-Loire and one in Cote-d'Amor – are centred around hospitals.

But while this sounds like a step backwards as France marks a week since it started to loosen its tight lockdown restrictions, doctors and scientists are more positive.

“This is paradoxically a good thing,” cardiologist Alain Ducardonnet told French TV station BFM.
 
“It shows that the tests are finally being carried out, even though the feedback is still slow.”
 
“We can see that the 'red' zones are not the only ones concerned and that we must always be vigilant against the virus. But the fact that 70 people can be tested at once in a possible outbreak shows that the tracking of contact cases is working. And that's a good thing.”
 
His view was echoed by Professor Karine Lacombe, head of department at the Parisian Saint-Antoine Hospital, who told Le Parisien: “These clusters are simply a reminder that the virus is not gone! It had slowed down over the last few weeks, but was still there
 
“The good news is that they have been identified.
 
“As long as they are, they can be controlled by testing, isolating and looking for contact cases. Remember, that's what happened in early February in Les Contamines-Montjoie [the Alpes ski resort that saw an early cluster centred on a family of British tourists] and it worked.”
 
A doctor in the Oise département, which saw the earliest identified outbreaks of Covid-19 in France, added: “As long as they are identified we can control them. If we lose it, that's when there is a risk of seeing a massive influx of patients in our hospitals.” 
 
Contact tracing is a major plank of France's strategy to loosen the lockdown, but the country's tracing app is still being tested and won't be ready until June 2nd, when phase 2 of the loosening of lockdown begins.
 
But as testing capacity increases local health authorities are once again doing contact tracing similar to the strategy at the start of the epidemic – where patients who test positive provide a list of all the people they have had recent contact with and those people are then tested.
 
At the height of the outbreak France only had the capacity to test people with severe symptoms or those in high-risk groups but testing has gradually been ramped up, although it has not reached the 700,000 tests a week that health minister Olivier Véran set as the May 11th target.
 

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COVID-19

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.

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