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.
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.
[#COVID19] Les effets de la priorisation des tests et des nouveaux modes d’organisation commencent à porter leurs fruits : 75% des tests sont rendus en moins de 48 heures (contre 67% la semaine dernière) pic.twitter.com/VT5dlzxK2q
— Ministère des Solidarités et de la Santé (@MinSoliSante) October 1, 2020
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.
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.