Five things to know about France’s new Covid-19 self-isolation rules

Five things to know about France's new Covid-19 self-isolation rules
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus must self-isolate for seven days after their last symptoms. Photo: AFP
The French government has slashed the mandatory Covid-19 day quarantine period by half. Here's what you need to know about the new rules.

During his brief speech to the nation on Friday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government had decided that the period of obligatory self-isolation for suspected or positive Covid-19 cases would be reduced from 14 days to seven.

“On the proposal of the Scientific Council, the duration of isolation will be reduced to seven days, that is to say the period during which there is a real risk of contagion,” Castex said, referring to the council set up to advise the government on its coronavirus strategy.

The prime minister had himself just completed one week of quarantine, forced upon him after he shared a car with Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme who then tested positive for the virus.

1. Why are they shortening the period?

The government have said they worry that keeping the period so long is counterproductive and that their goal is to ensure a better general compliance with the rules to limit risk of spread.

Figures – not just for France but other countries too – show that many people do not observe 14 days of quarantine so the thinking is that a smaller time period covering the days when the person is most at risk of spreading the disease would be more effective.

It's worth noting that even if the official line has been 14 days of self-isolation, there has been no formal mechanism in place to ensure that people actually comply with the rules.

2. Why seven days?

French authorities say 14 days of self-isolating is unnecessarily long because few people remain contagious after one week of symptoms. 

“We are most contagious in the first five days either after the first symptoms or after testing positive. After that, the level of contagiousness decreases significantly,” French Health Minister Olivier Véran told France Inter.


3. What do the experts say?

Several epidemiologists (those who observe the development of the epidemic curve) and infectious disease specialists (those specialised in the development of the virus itself) have spoken out in support of shortening the quarantine.

“We know that we are contagious 48 hours before the appearance of symptoms and up to 10 days after”, infectious disease specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux told France Info.

Her colleague and fellow infectious disease specialist Benjamin Davido told France 2 that “there is no reason to prolong the period of isolation above these seven days.”

Antoine Flahault, professor of public health and Director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, which follows the development of Covid-19 closely, tweeted:

“We need to be pragmatic and efficient.”


Flahault recommended that the government reduce the quarantine period to five kdays, seeing as less than 10 percent of asymptomatic cases of the virus remained contagious after that point.

4. What does it change in practice?

Until now, anyone who either tested positive for the virus or who was identified as a contact case had to self-isolate for 14 days from their last symptoms or starting the last day they were in contact with a positive case.
Now, the new rule is “isolating for at least seven days after the last symptoms disappear, and at the earliest 48 hours after the fever is gone,” according to public health agency Ameli.
That means that if you are identified as contact case and you experience symptoms during those seven days you need to get tested for the virus and your period of self-isolation won't count unless you test negative.
“It is essential that everyone strictly respects this period of isolation,” the prime minister said, warning that the government would ramp up checks to ensure that people comply with the rule.
We don't yet have details on these checks, but will update this article when we do.
5. Who needs to self-isolate?
The official advice is that you need to self-isolate if you;
  • Test positive for Covid-19;
  • Have Covid-19 symptoms and are waiting to get tested;
  • Have been identified as a contact case and are waiting to get tested
  • If you have tested negative but have been identified as a risk-contact
  • If you have tested negative but live in the same house as a positive case

The general line in France is that anyone who could be at risk of having the virus, either if they have symptoms or if they have been in touch with someone who tests positive, should get tested.

The government might adapt their advice in the coming days or weeks as the prime minister also said vulnerable groups will get priority in the line, following several complaints of long waiting lines and delays in getting the test results.

READ ALSO: How France's 'chaotic' Covid-19 testing strategy is causing a real headache

But for now the official advice is that everyone suspecting they could have the virus should get tested.

If you have any questions about the process you can call the national Covid-19 help line on 0800 130 000 (free of charge). 

Member comments

The Local is not responsible for content posted by users.

  1. Can you please update on American travel to France? I saw Brad Pitt was here despite not seeming to meet any of the criteria. I’m frustrated my parents are still blocked from coming here and seeing their only granddaughter (and me) even though I’m working and paying taxes here. How are unmarried partners allowed under #loveisnottourism but not parents. I need my parents and my daughter needs her grandparents. Thank you, whoever is reading, for offering suggestions and help.

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.