Health minister: France needs tough new measures to avoid an ‘epidemic within an epidemic’

France's health minister has warned that new measures will be needed to deal with the new, more infectious, variants of the Covid-19 virus to avoid 'an epidemic within an epidemic'.

Health minister: France needs tough new measures to avoid an 'epidemic within an epidemic'
Health Minister Olivier Véran. Photo: AFP

Health Minister Olivier Véran on Thursday afternoon gave an update on the latest health situation, but did not announce any new measures, which are being debated by the government and expected in the next few days.


He said: “We are not in an epidemic wave, when the virus is spreading exponentially like last spring, but we are on a rising plateau, which is increasing by 10 percent each week.”

The major worry was around the new, more contagious variants of the virus discovered in the UK and South Africa, which now account for 2,000 new cases a day – around 10 percent of the total.

Véran warned that: “The 6pm curfew together with other measures are useful but probably insufficient. What we want to avoid is an epidemic within the epidemic [of new variants].”

“I consider these variants to be a bit like new viruses requiring new measures to protect us.”

He refused to be drawn on what the new measures might be, however, saying only that the government was consulting widely.

READ ALSO Third lockdown? What we can expect in France this week


The government spokesman Gabriel Attal on Wednesday said that various different scenarios were being considered ranging from “maintaining the current framework, which is unlikely, to very strict lockdown”.

No date has been given on when new measures will be announced, but it is expected to be either over the weekend or at the start of next week.

Case numbers of new Covid cases currently stand at an average of 20,000 a day – considerably less than the 50,000 a day that France saw when it went into lockdown for a second time in October, but a number that has been growing at a rate of 10 percent per week for the last month.

Véran also said he was concerned about the situation in hospitals, many of which, he said, were under extreme pressure.

Hospitals in Nice, where the département of Alpes-Maritimes has the highest incidence rate in France, have been forced to transfer intensive care patients out of the region. The hard-hit eastern regions of Grand Est and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté have also been transferring intensive care patients.

There are currently 27,000 Covid patients in hospital of whom 3,100 are in intensive care – the occupancy rate of intensive care units has jumped from 50 percent to 60 percent since Christmas.

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France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body has outlined how Covid-19 rules will change on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules will relax in France as the country ends compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes will take effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 will return to normal on February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 will have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that will begin in February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.