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CRIME

France opens manslaughter probe into Italian cruise firm over Covid deaths

French investigators are probing manslaughter allegations against Italy's Costa Cruises over its handling of Covid-19 cases onboard one of its ships, which claimed the lives of three passengers, judicial sources told AFP on Tuesday.

France opens manslaughter probe into Italian cruise firm over Covid deaths
Three passengers died after the Costa Magica cruise. Photo: AFP

What was meant to be a dream cruise in the Caribbean turned into a nightmare for passengers onboard the Costa Magica ship in March 2020 after several Caribbean ports refused the ship permission to dock over coronavirus concerns.

Of the 2,303 passengers onboard, nearly a thousand were French.

They claim that for over a week they were kept in the dark about suspected infections onboard.

They also contend that the crew encouraged them to use the ship’s shops, spas, restaurants and casino without putting sufficient health measures in place.

Around 850 French passengers, including the families of three passengers who died of Covid-19, later filed a complaint in France against Costa Cruises.

Judicial sources told AFP that investigating magistrates were examining allegations of injuries and manslaughter, aggravated deceit, failure to assist a person in danger and endangering the lives of others.

In an interview with the Ouest France newspaper in August, one of the passengers, Stephanie Dubois, complained of a shortage of face masks and hand gel and said that some passengers were so desperate to get off the ship when  it dropped anchor off the island of Martinique that they wanted to swim the six kilometres (3.7 miles) to shore.

Costa Cruises denies that it failed to keep passengers informed of the situation, and insists that the crew acted on the basis of scant information available about the virus at the start of the pandemic.

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COVID-19

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.

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