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HEALTH

Macron promises new ‘regional decisions’ in fight against Covid-19 second wave

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised that decisions will have to be taken and new measures announced on Friday to try to stem the steep rise in Covid-19 infections across the country.

Macron promises new 'regional decisions' in fight against Covid-19 second wave
AFP

Fears of a second wave of the epidemic have been rising in France, with the number of new cases surging even though the death rate remains low compared to spring highs.

On Thursday president Macron said the government would take the necessary decisions to give the public an idea of what the weeks ahead will hold.

The government's defence council are due to meet on Friday after which new measures are expected to be revealed.

Suggesting new and stricter measures will be brought in on a local level where the virus was circulating more rapidly Macron said the decisions would be taken on a regional basis (déclinées territorialement).

But he vowed not to concede to any kind of panic.

“What we need to do is to adapt to the evolution of the virus and try to slow its circulation with hygiene measures and adapting our social lives,” he said.

“We need to be able to continue to live, educate our children and care for other patients and illnesses and to have a social and economic life,” he added.

On Wednesday, health authorities reported a further 8, 577 new infections and Scientific Council head Jean-Francois Delfraissy told reporters that current infection rates were “worrying”.

The government may have to take “a certain number of tough decisions” he said, probably within 10 days.

“France is now at a worrying level which is not far behind Spain, with a lag of maybe two weeks, and much more severe than that of Italy,” Delfraissy told the news briefing, which was held online.

The fact that new cases had not yet swamped the health system might have created “a false sense of security”, Delfraissy said.

As well as over 8,500 new cases the number of intensive care patients suffering from coronavirus rose to 599 on Wednesday – a steep increase of 71 from the previous day.

In all 5,003 patients with Covid-19 are being treated in hospital in France, a rise of 386 on Tuesday.

Four regions in France are badly hit by the resurgence in infections – the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in the south, L'Occitanie in the south west and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes in the centre.

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

Scientific Council head Jean-Francois Delfraissy. Photo: AFP

'Exponential rise'

The warning from the Scientific Council comes a day after Prime Minister Jean Castex entered a seven-day period of self-isolation, having spent part of the weekend with the boss of the Tour de France who tested positive for Covid-19.

There was the danger of a “very rapid, exponential rise” in some places, Delfraissy said, singling out the French Riviera and Provence region.

Some French regions could see emergency services overwhelmed in coming weeks if no fresh measures were taken, he said, adding any new steps taken required two weeks to have an impact.

Local lockdowns?

The French President Emmanuel Macron and his ministers have repeatedly made it clear they are opposed to a repeat of the nationwide lockdown imposed in March due to the devastating impact it would have on the economy.

Authorities will consider possibility of introducing local lockdowns especially hard-hit areas such as the southern port-city Marseille, where spiralling coronavirus rates prompted an upsurge in the number of patients in hospitals and intensive care units.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said the situation would be a matter of discussion during Friday's defense council meeting and that nothing was ruled out for Marseille or any other area with rising rates.

“We will look at all indicators for the epidemic situation and make any proposals that could be necessary,” Veran said.

In Paris, critics have slammed bars for not complying with rules of compulsory face masks for anyone moving around their establishments, after videos emerged of unmasked people dancing closely together, even while nightclubs have been prohibited from reopening. 

Some called for police to ramp-up controls or even close establishments, a power local authorities achieved when the interior ministry bumped Paris up to a red zone of high level of coronavirus.

READ ALSO What does it mean if my département in France is a red zone?

 

The Scientific Council's Delfraissy, meanwhile, spoke out against closures of bars and bans on crowds, saying “that is not going to solve the problem”.

The government may also have to become more forceful in some areas about imposing confinement measures for infected people and those they have been in touch with, he said, although this was not for now an official recommendation.

People at high risk because of old age or health problems including diabetes, obesity and respiratory issues may require a protective “bubble” around them, according to the council which advises the government on its Covid-19 policy.

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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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