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HEALTH

‘Thank you France, for offering me citizenship to recognise my work during the pandemic’

After working as a carer for the elderly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Brit John Spacey was offered fast-track citizenship by the French government.

'Thank you France, for offering me citizenship to recognise my work during the pandemic'
France has offered fast-track citizenship to foreigners who did vital work during the pandemic. Photo: AFP

Among the thousands of workers on the frontline in France during the pandemic were many foreign nationals, so in September the Interior Ministry ministry invited them to apply for fast-track naturalisation, saying they had “proved their commitment to the republic”.

Among the nearly 3,000 health workers, childcare professionals, cleaners and retail staff who applied was British man John Spacey, who lives in Creuse in central France and works for an organisation providing domestic care for the elderly.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

 

Soon-to-be Frenchman John Spacey in his garden in Creuse. Photo: John Spacey

People who apply under this scheme still have to complete the relevant paperwork and pass the tricky test on French history and culture, but can apply without having the five-year residency qualification.

Their application is also fast-tracked from the usual 18 months to two-year average to a process of just a few months.

John explains: “When Covid struck I continued working throughout the first wave.

“The hours became longer and the planning changed constantly as colleagues became sick, decided they’d prefer not to take the risk or simply found the new conditions unbearable, but I stuck with it.

“I followed all the protocols and neither myself nor any of my clients contracted the virus, although some of my colleagues did. Then came the second wave and things continued as in the first, but I love my job so, for me, there was never any question of giving up.

“Just before Christmas I received the news I was to be given a one-off payment from the State as a kind of merci for services rendered during the crisis, something for which I was very grateful and that I’d not expected, given I’d been being paid for my work anyway.

READ ALSO Ten reasons why you should consider becoming French

 

“Then came another, far more unexpected, thank you – the chance to apply for French nationality six months earlier than would have been possible under the normal rules and to have the process fast-tracked. All for doing a job I love.

“I’ve now begun the process and, all being well, I should be French before les grues (cranes) make their noisy reappearance.” 

John, originally from Bolton in north west England, moved to France in 2016 after funding was cut for his role as a support worker for disabled people under the UK government's austerity drive.

After struggling to survive financially he moved to France with €800 in his pocket, saying “my command of the French language was no more than the lyrics to a Lady Marmalade song and those of another by Kylie Minogue, the latter being far more helpful than the former.”

After working a variety of odd jobs and learning the language he moved back into the sector he felt most passionate about – the care sector.

QUIZ Do you know France well enough to become French?

He said: “It genuinely feels like a great honour to be offered citizenship.

“France has been very good to me since my arrival and has given me opportunities I could never have dreamed of before stepping off the Eurostar in 2016 – a home of my own, a wonderful relationship, a twenty-year-old Peugot 106, a forty-year-old Mobilette, the most satisfying job in the world and a very bright future.

“Soon, I’ll be able to vote, will regain my freedom of movement and will finally feel fully European once more, finally feel fully integrated into the nation I’ve already come to love like my own.

“Vivre, et merci, La France.”

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

With travel opening up, many people are planning trips to France over the next few months, but the Covid pandemic has not gone away. Here are your questions answered on testing, isolation and medical treatment if you do fall sick while on holiday.

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

Travel rules

Covid-related travel rules have mostly been relaxed now but you will still need to show proof of being fully vaccinated at the French border. If you are not vaccinated you will need to show a negative Covid test – find the full breakdown of the rules HERE.

Testing

Once in France if you develop symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive you will need to get a Covid test.

The good news is that testing is widely available in France, both for residents and tourists.

The easiest way to get a test is head to a pharmacy, most of which offer the rapid-result antigen test on a walk-in basis Tests are available to everyone who wants one, there is no need to fulfill any set criteria.

For full details on how to get a test, and some handy French vocab, click HERE.

The difference for tourists is that you will have to pay for your test, while residents get their costs reimbursed by the French state health system.

In the pharmacy you may be asked for your carte vitale – this is the health card that residents use to claim refunds. As a tourist you won’t have the card – you can still get the test, you will just need to pay for it. Costs vary between pharmacies but are capped at €22 for an antigen test or €54 for a PCR test.

Isolation

If your test is positive you are legally required to isolate, but how long your isolation period is depends on the your vaccination stats – full details HERE.

Treatment

For most fully-vaccinated people without underlying health conditions the symptoms of Covid are fairly mild, but if you do become ill, here’s how to access medical help while in France.

Pharmacy – one of the first things you will notice about France is that pharmacies are everywhere, just look out for the green cross. As well as selling over-the-counter medication, pharmacies all have at least one fully-qualified pharmacist on the staff who can offer medical advice. 

Take advantage of pharmacists – they train for at least six years so they’re very knowledgeable and they’re easy to access by simply walking into the shop. In tourist areas it’s likely that they will speak English. Pharmacists can also signpost you to a nearby doctor if you need extra help.

Doctors – if you need to see a doctor, look out for a médecin généraliste (a GP or family doctor). There is no need to be registered with a doctor, simply call up and ask for an appointment if you need one. If you have a smartphone you can use the medical app Doctolib to find a généraliste in your area who speaks English. You will need to pay for your consultation – €25 is the standard charge and you pay the doctor directly using either cash or a debit card.

You may be able to claim back the cost later on your own health/travel insurance depending on the policy.

Ambulance – if you are very sick or have difficulty breathing you should call an ambulance – the number is 15. All non-residents are entitled to emergency treatment in France, whether or not you have insurance, but if you are admitted or have treatment you may need to pay later.

READ ALSO Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

Paxlovid – several readers have asked whether the Covid treatment drug Paxlovid is available in France. It was licenced for use in February 2022 and is available on prescription from pharmacies, mainly for people with underlying health conditions or an impaired immune system. You can get a prescription from a medical practitioner.

The drug is reimbursed for French residents, but as a tourist you will have to pay.

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