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French rock group Indochine plays Covid trial gig in Paris

Starved of live music for the past year, fans of veteran French rock band Indochine got the chance to see their idols in concert on Saturday, all in the name of Covid-19 research.

French rock group Indochine plays Covid trial gig in Paris
People raise their hands before the start of a test concert of French rock band Indochine at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris on May 29th, 2021. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

Around 5,000 concert-goers were taking part in the experimental event at Paris’s Bercy concert hall. A further 2,500 volunteers who did not attend the concert would be used as a comparison group.

The trial to assess the risk of Covid transmission at events has been eagerly awaited by the live music and entertainment sector which has been devastated by Covid-19.

“It’s been so long that we have waited for a reopening of this kind of event. So finding a concert, in addition to it being Indochine, is really great,” Camille, 26, from the Paris region, said.

Before being admitted, the concert-goers, all aged between 18 and 45 with no special risk factors, handed over an envelope containing a saliva test done earlier on Saturday.

Each person was also required to have had a negative antigen test in the last three days.

Once inside, no social distancing was required but masks were compulsory.

READ ALSO: Eight French-language musicians you need to hear

Due to the 9pm curfew still in place in France, the concert started earlier than normal with Indochine on stage by 6 pm.

Similar trials have already taken place elsewhere in Europe and the Bercy concert had been postponed a number of times.

It was finally being held two days ahead of the opening up of France’s vaccination programme to all adults.

Results from the concert-goers’ study are expected by late June.

The study was organised by the AP-HP (Assistance publique-Hopitaux de Paris), the Paris-based university hospital trust, and Prodiss, the national union for musical and variety shows, with support from the government.

Previous experimental events in Spain and Britain have not shown any increased risk of transmission.

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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 90,000 per day, with 133,000 recorded in the past 24 hours – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 67 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – up 32 percent from last week.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The Minister of Health, Brigitte Bourguignon, said she is “asking the French to wear masks on public transport once again” during an interview with RTL on Monday, June 27th and the Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has also recommended this. She also recommended wearing a mask in all other enclosed crowded areas, as a “civic gesture.” However, she did not refer to the request as a government mandated obligation.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing. In recent days several public transport operators have changed their messaging from saying that masks are merely recommended to be ‘strongly recommended for the protection of everyone’.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

A recent poll for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed that 71 percent of people are in favour of making masks compulsory on public transport again.

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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