UPDATE: What does it mean if my French département is a red zone for Covid-19?

The French health ministry this weekend added seven départements to the total list of 'red' zones with rapidly rising Covid-19 numbers. But what impact does the categorisation have on daily life in those areas?

UPDATE: What does it mean if my French département is a red zone for Covid-19?
What changes for red départements in France. Photo: AFP

The first two départements to be bumped up to red level after the nationwide confinement were Paris and Bouches-du-Rhône in the south on August 14th. Others quickly followed suit.

A few weeks later and the list of red zones has grown to include a total of 42 départements, following weeks of rising coronavirus rates across France.

The virus is circulating more and more in France,” the French PM Jean Castex said on Friday September 11th when he announced the number of “red” départements had risen from 28 to 42.

To be categorised as a red zone, the health ministry looks at the number of new cases, but also other indicators such as hospital rates, positive test rates, the number of clusters, which are detailed in public health agency Santé Publique France's weekly reports.

The red zones are called “zone de circulation active” (zone of active circulation).

Where are the red zones?

The current list of 42 red départements is as follows: 

Seine et Marne, Yvelines, Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne, Val-d’Oise, Loiret, Côte d’Or, Seine-Maritime, Nord, Pas-de-Calais, Bas-Rhin, Sarthe, Maine-et-Loire, Loire-Atlantique ;
Îlle et Vilaine, Gironde, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hérault, Haute-Garonne, Gard, Tarn-et-Garonne, Pyréné, Orientales, Aude, Rhône, Ain,  Puy-de-Dôme, Loire, Isère, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches du Rhône, Var, Vaucluse, Corse-du-Sud, Haute-Corse.

The overseas départements of Guadeloupe, La Reunion and Martinique are also red zones.

Guyane and Mayotte are classed purple because they are still under a state of health emergency.

Why is it classed as a red zone?

It means that the area has a level of coronavirus spread that has surpassed the alert threshold set by health authorities of 50 positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the course of a week.

The figure is calculated on the number of positive PCR tests (nose swabs) recorded in the départment.

A département can also be labelled red if it has registered close to 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants for example if it is neighbouring a département with a high level of circulation, the health ministry said on their website.

The ministry considers “all indicators furnished by Santé Publique France (positivity rate, hospital pressure, number of tests performed, test positivity rate, change in the number of clusters, etc.),” they wrote.

While the red label is a sign of concern, the government stressed since they began to ease lockdown in May that the pandemic was still present on the territory and local areas would see a resurgence as life returned to normal.

By keeping a close eye on the development in each area they want to let local authorities take measures suited to their specific circumstances rather than only making blanket rules on a nationwide level. 

IN NUMBERS: How fast are France's Covid-19 rates increasing?

So what does it mean for day-to-day life in those places?

When the French health ministry label a zone red, local authorities get extended powers to take measures to stem the spread in that area. 

Among those powers are;

  • A restriction on movement – this could include restriction movement in certain areas or bringing in travel restrictions similar to those seen in May when all non-essential trips of more then 100km were banned. There could also be a ban on non-essential trips in or out of the département or in certain towns and cities.
  • Closure of bars and restaurants – local authorities have the power to close specific businesses if they are linked to a Covid cluster, or more generally either close all of a certain type of business or impose restrictions, such as limiting bars and cafés to serving on outside terraces only.
  • It's not just bars and restaurants, authorities have the power to close all non-essential places open to the public such as cinemas and museums, plus places were people tend to gather in numbers such as beaches, parks and gardens. They can also close markets.
  • Limits on gatherings – the decree states that local authorities in red zones can “prohibit, regulate or restrict gatherings or meetings” including religious gatherings but not funerals.

Health authorities can also decide to step up testing in these red zones as well as boost hospital resources if necessary.

And even when zones are not red…

  • Local authorities in all areas have the power to impose stricter rules on mask wearing and around 400 have already done so. This however is not dependent on the red zone label but often comes with it as authorities seek to act.
  • They can also limit transport to airports and boat trips

However just because authorities can impose these restrictions doesn't mean that they will, or at least not all of them.

Although as of September 10th most local authorities had not made use of their powers with very few extra restrictions imposed in red départements.

In the départements of Nord bars were ordered to close at 12.30am and the same measure was taken in Marseille. There is speculation Paris will be the next to see bar closures but at the time of this update no action had been taken.






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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.