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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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POLITICS

‘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. 

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