What to do if you catch Covid-19 in France

It's not the news that anyone wants to hear, but in the middle of a pandemic it's not beyond the realms of possibility that you will catch Covid-19 in France - so what should you do once you have your diagnosis?

What to do if you catch Covid-19 in France
France does around 1 million Covid-19 tests every week. Photo: AFP


The first step is to get tested and there are several different routes to this.

You may be contacted through the track and trace programme if you have been in contact with an infected person, or if you have downloaded the StopCovid tracing app you may get an alert. In either case you will be given a code or a prescription for a test that you can use to book an appointment for a test at your nearest laboratory.

You do not need a prescription for a test, however, and there are now a network of walk-in test centres across France in addition to the testing laboratories.

However, you need to check carefully that you are going to the right one or you might be turned away.

In general all laboratoires or 'labos' require appointments made in advance, either on the phone or online. You can find your nearest labo here.

READ ALSO How and where to get a Covid-19 test in France


There are also walk-in or drive-through testing centres, as well as mobile testing centres that visit rural areas. These don't require appointments, but some 'priority' centres will only test you if you either have a prescription or fall into one of the following categories; experiencing symptoms, a healthcare worker, in a vulnerable group or someone classed as a 'primary contact' of a confirmed case. A primary contact is someone who has direct contact with a patient – so if your colleague tests positive you are a primary contact but your husband who has not spent time with the colleague is not. 

After a summer in which French people flocked to get tested – often leading to long waits for tests or results – the government is now advising only the above four groups to get tested.

French airports also have testing sites which arrivals can use.

Over the summer there had been long delays in getting test results, up to 10 days in some cases, but the government says this is now improving with most people getting their results within 48 hours.


The test is free or fully reimbursable depending on which type of test centre you use.


If you have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive you should isolate while you wait for your results and if your test is positive you should continue to isolate.

The self-isolation period has recently changed, being revised down from the 14 days that was previously the rule.

Following latest scientific advice, this has now been revised down to seven days from the end of symptoms.

So if you test positive but don't experience any symptoms – and around half of all cases experience either no symptoms or mild ones – then your total isolation period is seven days.

If the virus makes you ill you should isolate for seven days after the last of your symptoms disappear.

READ ALSO Five things to know about France's new self-isolation rules

If someone in your household has tested positive, the whole household needs to self-isolate.

Self-isolation involves basically staying at home. If it's totally impossible for you to either arrange a delivery or have someone shop for you, you are permitted to leave the house to buy food, but you should wear a mask at all times.



Certain types of workers will be able to work from home while they self-isolate but if your job is of the kind that cannot be done remotely you will need an arrêt de travail to present to your employer to ensure that you still get paid while you are not working.

If you test positive you will need to get this from your doctor – a phone call or online appointment will be sufficient to issue this document so you do not need to go to the surgery.

If you are not infected but isolating because you are a contact case you can request the arrêt de travail online via your ameli (health insurance) account.

The certificate covers you for seven days off work, but can be extended to another seven days if you are still awaiting test results at the end of the period. This also applies to parents who cannot work because their child's school or class is closed due to Covid. For full details of claiming the arrêt in this way, click here.


Most people will not be seriously ill if they catch Covid-19 so will probably not need to be in contact with their doctor. If you are in a high risk group or if you are worried about your symptoms your first call would be to your regular doctor. Don't go in to the surgery, request an appointment over the phone or online (télémedicine) which an increasing number of doctors are now offering.

If you are seriously ill and have severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, calling the SAMU ambulance service on the number 15 and make sure you tell the operator it is a confirmed or suspected Covid case so that paramedics can take the appropriate precautions.

Member comments

  1. You say that those in a high risk group should contact their regular doctor if worried about possible Covid symptoms. Easier said than done. In our part of the country (Pays de Gex/Ain) it takes at least 3 days to get an appointment through phoning the surgery and the Doctolib site rarely offers appointments either at the surgery or by video within less than 3-4 days. I wonder what happens at the weekend if one of us vulnerables feels ill. The testing labs are closed, as is the doctor’s surgery. The nearest hospital is an hour’s drive away across the border into Switzerland and out again into Haute Savoie. Call no.15? And take up precious SAMU time and resources if it turns out to be only a common cold?

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.