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HEALTH

France increases Covid quarantine period to 10 days

France has increased its Covid quarantine from 7 days to 10 over fears that new variants of the virus remain infectious for longer.

France increases Covid quarantine period to 10 days
Health minister Olivier Véran announced the quarantine rule change on Thursday. Photo: AFP

Health Minister Olivier Véran announced the change in his Thursday evening briefing, saying that there is some evidence that the UK, South African and Brazilian variants of the virus remain infectious for longer.

The change applies to all people who test positive for Covid, who must now self-isolate for 10 days.

People identified as a contact case but who test negative for the virus continue to quarantine for 7 days.

New arrivals in France from non-EU countries – those who meet the 'vital reasons' travel criteria – are requested to quarantine for 7 days and as of Friday morning this had not changed. The quarantine for travellers can be done at home and is based on an 'honour' system as no checks are in place.

New variants of the Covid virus are steadily spreading in France – latest figures show that 36 percent of all cases are the UK variant, while the South African and Brazilian variants account for a further 5 percent. Overall, however, the number of new cases in France is showing a slight but sustained fall, now standing at around 18,000 new cases a day.

READ ALSO What is France doing to control new variants of Covid?

 

Véran said the French government was awaiting the final results of a study from Harvard university in the USA, which suggested that the higher contagion rate of the new variants may not be linked to a higher viral load, but rather to the fact that patients remain contagious for longer.

Employees in France who need to quarantine and who cannot work from home can obtain an arrêt de travail online via the Ameli site, which signs them off work and ensures that they continue to be paid. There is also home help available for people who live alone and need assistance while quarantining.

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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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