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HEALTH

Number of intensive care coronavirus patients in France falls below 2,000 for first time since March

The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care in France has fallen under 2,000 for the first time in two months, the health ministry said on Monday night.

The ministry said in its daily update that 131 people had died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours in France, bringing its total death toll in hospitals and nursing homes to 28,239.

The total numbers in intensive care fell by 89 patients to 1,998, the first time it has been under 2,000 since March 22nd.

READ ALSO ANALYSIS The nervous wait to see if France got its lockdown strategy right

This figure, which is a crucial measure of pressure on the hospital system, has been falling since April 9th after hitting a peak of 7,148.

A total of 19,015 people remain in hospital suffering from Covid-19.

France's health bosses have been nervously watching the intensive care figures since the epidemic began, both as a measure of pressure on the health system and a crucial indicator for the days ahead.

At the start of the outbreak France had just 5,000 intensive care beds in total. This was hastily increased to 10,000 through buying extra equipment, converting beds in private hospitals and setting up a military hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France.

Although 10,000 proved to be enough capacity, intensive care services in eastern France and the Paris region were extremely stretched and hundreds of the sickest patients were transferred to other countries or to less badly affected areas of France, many on specially converted TGV trains.

France began lifting its strict two-month lockdown on May 11th, and health chiefs are now nervously waiting to see if cases will spike again – experts believe it will take between 10 days and two weeks to begin to see the effects of lifting lockdown.

In recent days the daily death tolls have fluctuated widely, with officials saying there have been some problems of daily reporting of deaths in the country's Ehpad care homes leading to some figures later being revised.

 

Daily death totals have varied from 383 to 96 over the past seven days, but the average total total now stands at around 200, for deaths in hospitals and care homes. 

MAP The French départements with the highest death rates during the coronavirus outbreak

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TRAVEL NEWS

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

With travel opening up, many people are planning trips to France over the next few months, but the Covid pandemic has not gone away. Here are your questions answered on testing, isolation and medical treatment if you do fall sick while on holiday.

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

Travel rules

Covid-related travel rules have mostly been relaxed now but you will still need to show proof of being fully vaccinated at the French border. If you are not vaccinated you will need to show a negative Covid test – find the full breakdown of the rules HERE.

Testing

Once in France if you develop symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive you will need to get a Covid test.

The good news is that testing is widely available in France, both for residents and tourists.

The easiest way to get a test is head to a pharmacy, most of which offer the rapid-result antigen test on a walk-in basis Tests are available to everyone who wants one, there is no need to fulfill any set criteria.

For full details on how to get a test, and some handy French vocab, click HERE.

The difference for tourists is that you will have to pay for your test, while residents get their costs reimbursed by the French state health system.

In the pharmacy you may be asked for your carte vitale – this is the health card that residents use to claim refunds. As a tourist you won’t have the card – you can still get the test, you will just need to pay for it. Costs vary between pharmacies but are capped at €22 for an antigen test or €54 for a PCR test.

Isolation

If your test is positive you are legally required to isolate, but how long your isolation period is depends on the your vaccination stats – full details HERE.

Treatment

For most fully-vaccinated people without underlying health conditions the symptoms of Covid are fairly mild, but if you do become ill, here’s how to access medical help while in France.

Pharmacy – one of the first things you will notice about France is that pharmacies are everywhere, just look out for the green cross. As well as selling over-the-counter medication, pharmacies all have at least one fully-qualified pharmacist on the staff who can offer medical advice. 

Take advantage of pharmacists – they train for at least six years so they’re very knowledgeable and they’re easy to access by simply walking into the shop. In tourist areas it’s likely that they will speak English. Pharmacists can also signpost you to a nearby doctor if you need extra help.

Doctors – if you need to see a doctor, look out for a médecin généraliste (a GP or family doctor). There is no need to be registered with a doctor, simply call up and ask for an appointment if you need one. If you have a smartphone you can use the medical app Doctolib to find a généraliste in your area who speaks English. You will need to pay for your consultation – €25 is the standard charge and you pay the doctor directly using either cash or a debit card.

You may be able to claim back the cost later on your own health/travel insurance depending on the policy.

Ambulance – if you are very sick or have difficulty breathing you should call an ambulance – the number is 15. All non-residents are entitled to emergency treatment in France, whether or not you have insurance, but if you are admitted or have treatment you may need to pay later.

READ ALSO Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

Paxlovid – several readers have asked whether the Covid treatment drug Paxlovid is available in France. It was licenced for use in February 2022 and is available on prescription from pharmacies, mainly for people with underlying health conditions or an impaired immune system. You can get a prescription from a medical practitioner.

The drug is reimbursed for French residents, but as a tourist you will have to pay.

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