France welcomes latest fall in Covid numbers on day it eases restrictions

On the day France reopened its borders to vaccinated tourists and took the next step in its domestic reopening plan, the government welcomed new Covid-19 figures, which show the virus in decline across the country.

France welcomes latest fall in Covid numbers on day it eases restrictions
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

The national incidence rate of the virus has fallen below 70 per 100,000 people, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said at the press conference after the weekly cabinet meeting.

Only four départments have an incidence rate above 100,” he said.

Attal, speaking after the first cabinet meeting that all ministers had been able to attend in person since last October, said: “On a personal level, there is a pleasure in meeting again,” he said.

But he warned: “We must not believe that improvement means the end of the epidemic.”

President Emmanuel Macron said something similar earlier in the day.

“For this recovery to be sustainable, let us continue to respect protocols and barrier gestures,” he wrote as he hailed the latest phase of reopening on Twitter.

Health Minister Olivier Véran had previously welcomed the latest news, which he said showed ‘a very favourable trend’, even in the southwest of the country – where cases were rising as recently as last week.

“Cases are falling at almost 40 percent from one day to the next, from one week to the next,” he said during a visit to Roland-Garros to see the early use of France’s pass sanitaire (health passport) which is now in force for large events. 

“We are at some 6,000 diagnosed cases a day now, an incidence rate below 70 per 100,000, including in regions in which we had issued an alert last week – Nouvelle-Aquitaine and in certain départments in Occitanie.

“There, again, we have resumed a downward dynamic.”

The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care, meanwhile, is now at a level not seen since last summer, Véran added, welcoming the latest phase of reopening, which he described as “an important day for French gastronomy and commercial activity”. 

“This is good news – we owe it in particular to vaccination.”

While Véran was at Roland-Garros witnessing the start of the health pass scheme for large events, France’s tourism secretary Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne was on a Parisian rooftop, announcing the country’s reopening to overseas tourists.

Like Véran earlier, Attal praised the “mobilisation of all” French people in the latest positive health indicators. “This June 9th is no longer just a foretaste, but a taste of the life we used to live,” he said. 

“The health pass is freedom, it is the ability to go to large gatherings. It’s what allows all life to resume, it’s what allows us to enjoy culture and sport in their fullness again.”

The government’s priority now, he said, was helping businesses being to reopen successfully. “We are moving from ‘whatever it costs’ to ‘whatever happens’.”

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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.