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BORDEAUX

Race to vaccinate in Bordeaux as rare variant detected

The city of Bordeaux in southwestern France will fast-track vaccinations for residents in one neighbourhood after nearly 50 people tested positive for a "very rare" variant of Covid-19, health authorities told AFP late Friday.

Race to vaccinate in Bordeaux as rare variant detected
A woman is vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus at the new vaccination centre at the Parc des Expositions in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on April 8th, 2021. Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

All adult residents of the city’s northern Bacalan neighbourhood would be granted “unconditional” access to jabs, “this weekend or at worst early next week”, said Patrick Dehail, medical advisor to the regional health authority.

“We are working with the (health) ministry to obtain the extra doses required,” Dehail said, adding that the boosted local effort will then be expanded to the wider Bordeaux area.
 
“We are talking about a variant that has already been identified at the national level but which has been very rare until now,” he added.
 
At least 46 people have been infected with the variant in the Bordeaux neighbourhood, with mass testing launched Friday to track down further cases.

None of those infected so far have been hospitalised.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to book an appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine in France

Labelled VOC 20I/484Q, the strain is related to the British variant of Covid-19, but with an additional mutation.

This mutation, (E484K), is also carried by the South African and Brazilian variants and is suspected of reducing the immunity acquired by either a past infection or by some vaccines.

However, Dehail said there was as yet “no reason” to suggest that the variant is resistant to mRNA vaccines such as those made by Pfizer or Moderna, or that it causes a more serious form of Covid-19.

The variant has been detected in the northern Paris region as well as Bordeaux in southwest France.

In France as a whole, vaccinations have so far been limited to the over-50s, although people outside this age group can book unused slots advertised at short notice. All adults will be eligible for vaccinations in France from May 31st.

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COVID-19

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body outlined how Covid-19 rules changed starting 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 relaxed in France as the country brought an end to 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 took 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 would return to normal starting February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 now also 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 began at the start of 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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