French PM in isolation after wife tests positive for Covid

French Prime Minister Jean Castex is placing himself under seven days isolation after his wife tested positive for coronavirus, his office announced on Wednesday.

French PM in isolation after wife tests positive for Covid
French prime minister Jean Castex. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

Castex has received a first AstraZeneca vaccination against Covid-19 and had a negative test in the evening, the prime minister’s office said.

“Nevertheless, as a contact case, he is in solitary confinement for seven days, in accordance with health rules,” it added.

Earlier Wednesday Castex met members of the public while carrying out his prime ministerial duties on a day that France further relaxed its Covid-19 restrictions, with people enjoying indoor dining and gyms for the first time in months.

The prime minister visited a market and a sports hall in a Paris suburb before having lunch with Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire.

Castex and finance minister Bruno Le Maire leave the Brasserie Lipp restaurant after a lunch on Wednesday – the first day indoor dining was allowed. Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

He also took part in the first almost-complete ministerial meeting since October.

The reopenings come as France – one of Europe’s hardest hit countries – sees a steep drop off in coronavirus cases after a grim winter.

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

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

Castex goes into isolation for the third time in under a year, after coming into contact with Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme in September and President Emmanuel Macron in December, both of whom had contracted the virus.

However the prime minister has never tested positive for coronavirus.

He is also due soon to receive his second dose of the vaccine.

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.