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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‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief.