SHARE
COPY LINK

HEALTH

‘Beginning of a new life’ – How France greeted the reopening gyms, pools and indoor dining

People in France enjoyed indoor dining and gyms for the first time in months on Wednesday, as falling Covid-19 rates allowed the government to relax coronavirus rules and push the curfew back to 11pm.

'Beginning of a new life' - How France greeted the reopening gyms, pools and indoor dining
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

Wednesday marks phase 3 of France’s reopening plans, with bars, restaurants and cafés allowed to open their indoor spaces while gyms and swimming pools could also reopen.

READ ALSO What changes in France on Wednesday?

Rules for travellers from within the EU were also eased, while vaccinated travellers were allowed in again from non-EU countries including the UK, USA and Canada under the traffic light system.

EXPLAINED How France’s traffic light travel system works

The return of simple joys was welcome for some.

“It’s a pleasure to have a coffee inside. Normal life is gradually resuming,” said transport employee Hammou Mraoui, sipping a coffee in a bar in the Meudon suburb of Paris.

Bar owner Christophe Guedes said it was an adjustment to serve indoors again.

“It’s almost strange to hear a client say ‘a coffee inside please’, but it’s a huge relief,” he told AFP.

The overnight curfew will now start later – at 11pm instead of 9pm – before being dropped entirely on June 30th if the health situation permits.

The new measures also mean that spectators will be able to enjoy night sessions for the final stages of the French Open tennis in Paris.

Some fitness buffs were happy to finally be allowed inside again, including Stephanie Moscoso, who hit her local gym in central Paris at 8am.

“I was super motivated. I put on the alarm clock this morning, it was super early, I saw the sun, I said to myself: this is the beginning of a new life!” the 35-year-old said.

One sector still lacking clarity is night clubs, which remain closed until further notice, with the government set to look at the situation again on June 21st.

And in virtually all of France, masks remain obligatory even out of doors until further notice.

The new openings come as France – one of Europe’s hardest hit countries – sees a sharp drop-off of coronavirus cases after a grim winter.

The numbers in intensive care are down to 2,394 compared with 6,000 in late April.

And as of Tuesday more than 28 million people had at least one vaccine shot – about 55 percent of the adult population.

The government is on course to reach its target of 30 million people with at least one dose of the vaccine by June 15th.

President Emmanuel Macron urged caution with the reopenings, while embracing a return to normal.

“A new step will be taken” on Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.

“Life will resume across our country. It is part of our culture, of our art of living, that we are going to reacquaint ourselves with,” he said.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

HEALTH

How long do you have to wait to see a doctor in France?

When it comes to making an appointment to see a doctor in France - even your GP - waiting times can be frustratingly long.

How long do you have to wait to see a doctor in France?

Back in 2000 a report by the World Health Organisation found France provided the “close to best overall healthcare” in the world.

But there is no doubt that it suffers from issues that mean patients don’t always have access to the healthcare they need.

How long patients have to wait is is one of those ‘how long is a piece of string’ questions, depending on a whole host of factors, notably where you live in France. As you’d expect, large urban centres attract more medics – but even these places are not immune from some serious healthcare issues.

According to data from international market research firm Ifop, more than 67% of French people have given up trying to make an appointment with their friendly neighbourhood doctor purely because of how long it takes to get an appointment.

The waiting time to consult a general practitioner varies between six to 11 days. It was only four days 10 years ago, according to the data.

The situation is not helped by the number of missed appointments. Le Parisien reported that an average of two appointments per doctor per day are missed. That may not sound much, but it amounts to 28million missed appointments annually – a workload the equivalent of 4,000 doctors.

At the same time, visits to hospitals’ emergency rooms are rising. Last year, 22million patients were treated by A&E doctors and nurses.

And, as more doctors retire, replacements are proving hard to come by. So-called “medical deserts” are a regular talking point in many rural areas of France – but residents in some areas of major cities are reportedly finding it increasingly difficult to register with a new médecin traitant when their long-standing family GP retires.

READ ALSO Medical deserts: Why one in three French towns do not have enough doctors

For an appointment with a specialist, expect to wait much longer. In France, you don’t need to see your GP before you make an appointment with a specialist medical professional, but most people do because it means the costs are more likely to be covered by state and “mutuelle” health insurance.

According to the Direction de la recherche, des études, de l’évaluation et des statistiques (DREES), getting an appointment to see an ophthalmologist involves an average wait of 190 days – more than six months. 

Dermatologist appointments can involve waits of between 60 and 126 days. As with other medical specialisms regional differences can be huge. In Paris, for example, the wait for an appointment with a dermatologist is at the lower end of the scale. But in rural areas where dermatologists are few and far between, it’s much longer.

Access to gynaecological care in France can also be difficult, taking between 44 and 93 days, or more than three months, to get a consultation, potentially critical time for anyone in need of cervical cancer screening, for example.

READ ALSO How France plans to transform its struggling health system

The wait for a cardiologist appointment in France, meanwhile, is in the average range of 50 to 104 days; a paediatrician’s consultation could involve waiting between 22 and 64 days; and a radiologists’ appointment ranges between 21 to 48 days.

Again these waiting times in big big urban centres like Paris or Lyon will likely be lower given the concentration of specialist doctors.

READ ALSO Have you fallen down the self-diagnosis rabbit hole?

The good news is that the ability to make doctors’ appointments online – especially specialist appointments – is starting to cut waiting times. But it’s clear France still has a long way to go. And those tens of millions of missed appointments are a major problem.

The Union Française pour une Médecine Libre group has called on politicians to allow doctors to penalise patients who do not turn up for their consultations, while online booking service Doctolib is working on a public awareness campaign to highlight the problem. 

Recently a meeting was organised with doctors’ unions and patients’ associations to discuss possible remedies, such as sending a warning email patients. But the portal is unwilling to deny those who repeatedly miss appointments access – “That would hinder universal access to care,” it warned.

SHOW COMMENTS