MAP: How the new Covid variants are spreading across France

As France's Covid numbers remain high but stable the presence of more infectious variants of the virus first discovered in the UK, South Africa and Brazil is causing major concern among health experts. Here's the results of the latest survey into the spread of the variants.

MAP: How the new Covid variants are spreading across France
Photo: AFP

“These variants, because they are more contagious, are gradually replacing Covid-19 in the form we know it,” said France's health minister Olivier Véran in the government's weekly briefing on Thursday.

“Our objective is clear; we want to limit the spread of these variants as much as possible.”

Since the announcement of the new variant in the UK just before Christmas, France has been extremely concerned that the explosion of cases of deaths witnessed in the UK would be repeated here.

Very strict travel rules are in place for the UK, with most forms of travel banned and compulsory testing and quarantine.

But the French government is also conducting regular 'flash' genetic tests on Covid samples around the country to track the progress of the variants.

From 1 percent in early January, variants now make up 14 percent of cases across France, but there are wide regional variations.

Public health agency Santé Publique France has now released regional data based on a flash survey of 136 labs spread over the 13 regions of mainland France, plus French overseas territory, which covered 95,000 tests.

The tests covered the variants discovered in the UK, South Africa and Brazil and the UK variant accounted for the great majority of cases – of a France-wide total of 14.6 percent, the South African and Brazilians variants accounted for just 0.6 percent.

The darker the blue, the higher the percentage of cases are the variant. The regions that are grey are where SPF considers they did not get enough data to draw a meaningful conclusion.




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French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.