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Mayors in northern France close beaches again after ‘unacceptable’ behaviour

Three towns in France's northwest will close their beaches just days after reopening following two months of coronavirus lockdown, saying too many visitors were snubbing social distancing rules.

Officials said they were asked by residents to close beaches on the eve of a public holiday on Thursday that risks drawing too many visitors to the Brittany region's Atlantic shoreline.

Hundreds of French beaches reopened last weekend to runners, swimmers and anglers as the country eased restrictions, but most banned sunbathing or picnics as part of social distancing measures seeking to prevent a second infection wave.

READ ALSO How to enjoy the holiday rules within the rules of France's lockdown phase 1

The government credits the lockdown with saving tens of thousands of lives but the economy has suffered – particularly the tourism industry, which accounts for roughly eight percent of France's economic output.

The prefecture of Morbihan said beaches at Damgan, Billiers and Erdeven would be shut from Wednesday evening because of “unacceptable behaviour” last weekend.

Beachgoers had failed to keep a safe distance from one another and gathered in “several static groups”, the officials said.

Elsewhere in Brittany, authorities have tested over 1,000 employees at an abattoir in Cotes d'Armor, fearing a localised outbreak after one worker was admitted to intensive care with a coronavirus infection.

So far, 69 have tested positive and are quarantining at home.

MAP: 25 new coronavirus clusters found in France

The French government is weighing, meanwhile, whether to hold a postponed second round of local elections in June.   

Its Scientific Council has given the green light, provided adequate protective measures are put in place.

The first round was held on March 15th, just hours after the government ordered the shutdown of all bars and restaurants and two days before a nationwide lockdown was imposed.

Turnout for the first round was the lowest ever for municipal elections in France, and several mayors have urged the government to hold off on fresh voting until at least September.

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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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