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COVID-19

France says fifth Covid wave hitting at ‘lightning’ speed

Fifth-wave coronavirus infections in France are rising at an alarming rate, the government reported Sunday, with new daily Covid cases close to doubling over the past week.

Medical staff walk past a room of a Covid-19 patient at the intensive care unit of the Centre hospitalier universitaire in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe
A high level of vaccinations appears, so far, to be keeping a lid on the number of Covid patients needing intensive care. (Photo by Carla BERNHARDT / AFP)

The seven-day average of new cases reached 17,153 on Saturday, up from 9,458 a week earlier, according to the health authorities, an increase of 81 percent.

“The fifth wave is starting at lightning speed,” government spokesman Gabrial Attal told media.

The above chart from Our World in Data shows the different peaks seen in France since the start of the pandemic.

The latest seven-day increase is three times the average rise of cases recorded over the previous three weeks, indicating an exponential acceleration of infections.

For now, the spike in infections has not led to a massive influx of Covid patients into hospitals, with the authorities attributing the limited number of intensive care patients to France’s high rate of vaccinations which appear highly effective against the most dangerous forms of Covid.

On Saturday, hospitals reported a total of 7,974 Covid patients in their care, with 1,333 of them in intensive treatment.

This compares to 6,500 and 1,000, respectively, a month earlier.

“There is a very strong increase in infections, but we also know that in France we have very large vaccination coverage,” he said. “We seem to be ahead of our neighbours concerning booster shots.”

As of November 19th, 5,293,000 had had a booster shot – or around 8.1 percent of the population – according to the French Ministry of Health and Solidarity on Twitter.

In neighbouring Germany, meanwhile, 5,199,713 people – or around 6.2 percent – of the population had had a top-up vaccination as of November 19th.

READ ALSO: Who gets a Covid vaccine booster shot in France

France’s introduction of a health pass ahead of other countries in the summer was also helping to keep Covid in check, he said.

The health pass, required in French restaurants, cafes and many cultural venues, certifies that a person is fully vaccinated, has recently recovered from Covid, or has tested negative for the virus.

The government continues to stand by its choice to “bring the weight of restrictions to bear on non-vaccinated people rather than vaccinated people”, Attal said.

READ ALSO: France ‘can manage fifth Covid wave without extra restrictions’

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COVID-19

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).

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