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Workplaces – not parties – ‘the biggest source of coronavirus contagion in France’

New figures show that the workplace, not parties, is the biggest source of Covid-19 contamination in France at the moment.

Workplaces - not parties - 'the biggest source of coronavirus contagion in France'
France is testing extensively to track down new transmission chains before they get out of hand. Photo: AFP

Last week continued what health authorities and experts say is worrying trend of increased coronavirus spread across France.

“All indicators show that the transmission of the SARS-COV-2 infection increased considerably” last week, France's national health agency Santé Publique France wrote in their weekly statement on Friday.

The spike in the number of new confirmed cases cannot simply be explained by the country's reinforced testing programme, and experts have pointed their fingers at young people with a lax attitude to health rules as the main problem.

“The most important vector of the disease today are young people with little or no symptoms who travel, who party,” Céléstin-Alexis Agbessi, an emergency doctor at the Parisian hospital Bichat-Claude Bernard told The Local last week.

MAP: Where in France is it compulsory to wear a mask in the street?

531 clusters

However, only a minority of the clusters investigated by health authorities so far were found to have originated at a big social gathering.

Every week, Santé Publique France publishes a map showing the clusters still active in France. The system collecting the public data is called MONIC, which is a short for monitorage (monitoring).

Since May 9th, 531 clusters have been detected in France – not counting the country's nursing homes for elderly, Ehpad – 499 on the mainland and the rest in the overseas territories, according to the health ministry.

The map below shows where the active clusters in France are located.

Around a third of the total clusters have been put under investigation by health authorities.

New information about these clusters reveal that parties and other social gatherings do not constitute the largest proportion of the current registered spread of the virus.

In fact, the top source of spread at the moment is actually the office.

1. The workplace

Of the 147 clusters currently being investigated by French health authorities, most of them (26 percent) have been traced back to the workplace. 

 

The French government for a long time urged people who could to keep working from home, but after the government loosened up the last lockdown restrictions at the end of June more people also went back to the office.

The government however issued office guidelines for best Covid-19 practices, asking employers to provide hand sanitising gel inside the office and require that employees wear masks in communal areas.

 

Not everyone can work from home and maintaining strict health rules has been more difficult in other places of work such as manufacturing. There have been some high profile outbreaks linked to abattoirs.

READ ALSO When and where is it compulsory to wear a mask in France?

 
2. Social gatherings
 
Social gatherings has been identified as the second most common source of spread. Thirteen percent of the clusters originated at a “temporary gathering,” according to French health authorities, either at a public or private event. 
 
3. Extended family

Nearly as many clusters (12 percent of the total 147) originated within the extended family. 

Experts have previously warned families about the risk of spread within families, and some of the first clusters detected in France after the end of the confinement originated in family gatherings.

ANALYSIS: Is France heading towards a second wave of coronavirus infections? 

4. Hospitals and institutions

Health establishments and social establishments came at a shared fourth place, being identified as the source of 9 percent of the coronavirus clusters each.

Nursing homes for elderly, known as Ehpad in France, were not included in these numbers. French nursing homes were hard hit by the pandemic, which seeped into several institutions and has caused over 10,000 deaths since March 1st.

READ ALSO: How coronavirus torn through France's elderly nursing homes

The invisible challenge

A majority of the people who have tested positive for the virus in France were asymptomatic.

Of the total positive tests from last week, 51 percent were asymptomatic, down from 55 percent the week before. In total, 65 percent of the total positive confirmed cases in France were asymptomatic.

This is a huge challenge for French health authorities because it means that people who carry the virus and can contaminate others will not necessarily have any reason to suspect that they themselves are ill.

It also should be noted that the numbers reported above only accounts for people that have gotten both tested and received their test results, which means that there can be a time lag between the actual situation and what health authorities can say with certainty. 

 

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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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