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HEALTH

France relaunches its Covid-19 tracing app with a plea to people to download it

France has relaunched an improved Covid tracing app with a plea for people to download it after the first version saw a spectacularly poor take-up.

France relaunches its Covid-19 tracing app with a plea to people to download it
Photo: AFP

The StopCovid app, launched in June, has been downloaded just 2.6 million times, making it largely ineffective in a country of 66 million people. Earlier this month Prime Minister Jean Castex was forced to admit that he hadn't downloaded it and in fact couldn't even remember its name.

The app is intended to support the country's contact tracing system, which is run by the health service and works by contacting lists that Covid patients supply of people they have been in contact with.

The app is intended to trace casual contacts – fellow public transport passengers, other customers at a café – whose details patients are unable to supply.

But the poor take-up rendered it largely ineffective, with Digital Minister Cedric O lamenting a “wasted opportunity”.

So now the app has been upgraded with added features and relaunched.

The minister added: “This is only useful if a lot of people use it,” urging all French to download the relaunched app as a “supplementary health barrier gesture” to protect them from the virus.

 

It is available now in the app store for android and iPhones under the name TousAntiCovid (everyone against covid). People who had already downloaded the old app can update it to the new version.

The new app works in the same way as the old one, using bluetooth so you will need to ensure your bluetooth connection is turned on. The government says the use of bluetooth provides privacy protection as the app cannot know users' details and does not track their location.

If you test positive for Covid, you upload your results to the app and if you have been in contact with another app-user who has tested positive, the app will send you an alert, along with a QR code to use at the testing centre.

The new app, however, has added some extra information and gives regular updates of the latest Covid-19 data in France.

It also includes a couple of helpful extra features such as a direct link to the government site that shows the nearest testing centres to your location and a link to the attestation that you will need for trips out at night if you live in a curfew zone.

MAP These are the areas of France under curfew

You can also follow the link to the government site that gives the latest detailed breakdown of the situation in the area where you live.

The app is available in English in most sections, apart from the 'latest news' section with is in French. 

The relaunch comes as the health situation in France continues to deteriorate, with the country reporting a new record of 41,622 new cases on Thursday and 165 deaths.

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HEALTH

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

An investigation has revealed that tap water supplied to some 12 million people in France was sometimes contaminated with high levels of pesticides last year.

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

Data from regional health agencies, and collated by Le Monde, found that supplies to about 20 percent of the population, up from 5.9 percent the year previously, failed to consistently meet regional quality standards. 

The study highlighted regional differences in tap water quality. Hauts-de-France water was the most likely to be affected, with 65 percent of the population there drinking water contaminated by unacceptable pesticide levels. In Brittany, that level fell to 43 percent; 25.5 percent in the Grand-Est, and 25 percent in the Pays de la Loire.

Occitanie, in southwest France, meanwhile, showed the lowest level of non-compliance with standards, with just 5.1 percent of the region’s population affected by high pesticide levels in their tap water. However, figures show that 71 percent of people in one département in the region, Gers, were supplied with water containing high levels of pesticides.

Regional discrepancies in testing, including what chemicals are tested for, mean that results and standards are not uniform across France. Tap water in Haute-Corse is tested for 24 pesticide molecules; in Hauts-de-Seine, that figure rises to 477. 

One reason for regional testing standards are differences in local agricultural requirements.

Part of the increase in the year-on-year number of households supplied with affected water may also be explained by the fact that tests in many regions now seek to trace more molecules, Le Monde noted.

Water quality standards in France are strict – with a limit for pesticide residues set at 0.1 microgramme per litre, so the “high” levels found in tap water supplies may not represent a danger to health.

The question of the level of health risk to humans, therefore, remains unclear. The Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) has not defined a maximum safety level for 23 pesticides or their metabolites. Le Monde cites two metabolites of chloridazone, a herbicide used until 2020 on beet fields, for which only provisional safety levels in tap water have been set. 

Many of these molecules and their long-term effects remain unknown – and “the long-term health effects of exposure to low doses of pesticides are difficult to assess,” admits the Ministry of Health.

Michel Laforcade, former director general of the ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine told Le Monde that health authorities have “failed” on this subject. 

“One day, we will have to give an account,” he said. “It may not be on the same scale as the contaminated blood affair, but it could become the next public health scandal.”

In December 2020, the Direction générale de la santé (DGS) recommended “restricting uses of water” as soon as the 0.1 micrograms per litre quality threshold is exceeded, in cases of residues for which there is no formal maximum health value.

But this principle is not always applied, according to France 2’s Complètement d’enquête programme.

In December 2021, the DGS asked the Haut conseil de la santé publique (HCSP) “for support on the management of health risks associated with the presence of pesticides and pesticide metabolites in water intended for human consumption.”

The HCSP, in response, said that “an active and urgent policy must be implemented to reduce the contamination of resources by pesticides”.

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