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HEALTH

France bans use of malaria drug chloroquine to treat Covid-19 patients

The French government on Wednesday banned treatment of Covid-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine, a controversial and potentially harmful drug that US President Donald Trump has said he is taking preventively.

France bans use of malaria drug chloroquine to treat Covid-19 patients
Photo: AFP

The move came after two French advisory bodies and the World Health Organisation warned this week that the drug – also used as treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus – had been shown to be potentially dangerous in several studies.

The drug had been heavily promoted by Marseille-based infectious disease specialist Didier Raoult, who caught the ear of Trump, who stunned his own administration last week by revealing he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure against Covid-19.

After Raoult's trials of the drug produced apparently positive results, France's health ministry licensed it for use on the most seriously ill patients, in hospital settings only.

But under the new French rules, the drug can be used only in clinical trials to test its efficacy against coronavirus – making it unclear if Professor Raoult would be able to continue using it at his hospital in Marseille in the south.

Raoult has already rejected a comprehensive study published last week in The Lancet medical journal, which found that administering hydroxychloroquine or its related compound chloroquine actually increased the risk of dying for many patients.

Hydroxychloroquine, also used to treat malaria, is sold under the brand name Plaquenil by French pharma giant Sanofi, which promised to offer governments millions of doses if studies proved it could be safely used in the coronavirus fight.

The French government has been running trials on several drugs – including AIDS, Ebola and hepatitis treatments – on seriously ill patients in hospitals to see if any can help in treating Covid-19 patients.

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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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