‘Progress lost’: French health chiefs warn public after ‘clear rise’ in virus spread

French health officials have warned that there is a" clear increase" in the spread of coronavirus in France and that much of the progress made since the end of lockdown in May "has been erased".

'Progress lost': French health chiefs warn public after 'clear rise' in virus spread
People queue at a COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) free screening operation outside the Arcachon railway station, southwestern France, on July 24, 2020. AFP

The virus has begun to spread again in France after the relaxation of lockdown measures and as people take fewer precautions.

The number of new cases in France began to climb again, to more than 1,000 a day, according to the health ministry's DGS health directorate.

On Friday some 1,130 new cases were detected according to the DGS.

“We have returned to levels comparable with those at the end of the lockdown period,” a DGS statement said.

“We have thus erased a good part of the progress made during the initial weeks” since the lockdown was lifted, it added.

“It's more essential than ever to reimpose our collective discipline,” the DGS warned.

French officials reported Friday that 30,192 people had died of COVID-19 to date, one of the highest numbers in Europe.

The “R” number that determines if the virus is spreading has risen to 1.3 meanwhile, meaning that every ten people with the virus will infect 13 others.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex (C), flanked by Minister of Solidarity and Health Olivier Veran (2L) and Director General of Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris (AP-HP) Martin Hirsch (L).

The DGS said on Friday it was encouraging French people to work from home if they could and reduce needless contact with others.

Health chiefs also said that members of the public should get tested if they were in any doubt they had the virus.

Automatic isolation is essential for anyone who has symptoms or who comes into contact with anyone who has tested positive or is ill, in order to limit the spread of the virus, the DGS warned.

France has also decided to test travellers from countries where the virus is particularly virulent. 

Along with the United States and Brazil, which are reporting tens of thousands of new cases each day, the countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Israel, India, South Africa, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, 
Panama, Peru, Serbia, Turkey and Madagascar.

Coronavirus tests will be rolled out across France by August 1, and will also be carried out at French ports, Castex said.

He also said that while France's border with Spain would remain open for now despite a surge in cases in Catalonia, “we strongly urge French people to avoid going there until the health situation improves.”

As for people travelling to France from Spain, “we are in talks with the Spanish and Catalan authorities so that… they try to limit the flow as much as possible,” he said.

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France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body outlined how Covid-19 rules changed starting 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 relaxed in France as the country brought an end to 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 took 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 would return to normal starting February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 now also 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 began at the start of 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.