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COVID-19 RULES

EXPLAINED: What to do if you are a Covid ‘contact case’ in France

Covid case numbers are continuing to rise in France, meaning that more of us are likely to come into contact with people who later test positive. So what do you need to do if you are alerted as a contact case?

If you have come into contact with someone who is infected with Covid in France, you may need to stay at home.
If you have come into contact with someone who is infected with Covid in France, you may need to stay at home. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

There are a number of ways to find out that you are a cas contact (contact case) of someone who has tested positive for Covid.

You may have received an alert on the TousAntiCovid app warning of an “Exposition à risque”; a message from Ameli, the state health provider; or the infected person may have contacted you directly. 

In any case, what you should do next depends on your situation. 

You have had Covid in the last two months 

If you have had Covid in the last two months, you are not considered a cas contact, even if you have come into contact an infected person, as you will have antibodies. 

This means you can go on living your best life. Enjoy.

You are fully vaccinated

If you are fully vaccinated (pre-booster), you received your last dose more than 7 days ago (or 28 days ago for the Janssen vaccine), are not immunodeficient and have not been in touch with someone infected with the Omicron variant, you should take an antigen test at your local pharmacy as soon as possible. A list of testing sites can be found here

  • If the test is negative

You are only at slight risk and do not need to isolate. You should however try to limit social interactions, wear masks both inside and outside even when not required to do so by law and avoid meeting vulnerable groups such as the elderly. 

You must get a second test seven days after your contact with the Covid-infected person. If you have fever or other Covid symptoms before seven days, get tested as soon as possible and remain isolated until you get the result. 

  • If the test is positive 

You have been infected and are contagious. Remain in isolation for 10 days after receiving your test result. If you have breathing difficulties, contact a doctor or dial 15 for an ambulance. If you live with other people, they will be considered as cas contact and must immediately self-isolate if they are not vaccinated. After 10 days, if you have had no fever or breathing difficulties for 48 hours, you can end your self isolation and do not need to do another test. 

You have been in contact with someone infected by the Omicron variant

If you received a warning via the TousAntiCovid app or from Ameli that you are cas contact, you may be informed that the potentially contagious person you were in contact with was infected with the Omicron variant. If this is the case, you should follow the procedure for unvaccinated people (see below). 

You are not fully vaccinated 

If you have not already received two vaccine doses (of Pfizer, Moderna, Astrazeneca) or one dose of Janssen;  if you only received these doses less than seven days ago (or 28 days for Janssen); if you suffer from an immunodeficiency disorder; or if you have come into contact with someone infected with the Omicron variant, you should get an antigen test as soon as possible. This is free if you have received an alert via the TousAntiCovid app or Ameli. 

  • If the test is negative

It is possible that you have been infected but the test hasn’t picked it up yet. Self-isolate for seven days and then take another test. If you have fever or other Covid symptoms before seven days, take another test. If you have breathing difficulties, call a doctor or dial 15. 

When you take your test on day seven, if it is negative, you can come out of self-isolation. If it is positive, you must add a further ten days to your self-isolation, and follow the procedure below: 

  • If the test is positive

You have been infected and are contagious. Remain in isolation for ten days after receiving your test result. If you have breathing difficulties, contact a doctor or dial 15. If you live with other people, they will be considered as cas contact and must immediately self-isolate if they are not vaccinated. After ten days, if you have had no fever or breathing difficulties for 48 hours, you can end your self isolation and do not need to do another test. 

If you are not fully vaccinated and are a cas contact, you should work remotely. If this is not an option, you should ask for an arrêt de travail so that you can stop work and self-isolate. You can do this via the Ameli site. 

You live with someone who is infected 

If you live with someone who has tested positive, you are considered a cas contact. You must follow the procedures mentioned above, according to your vaccination status. Once again, if your housemate is known to be infected with the Omicron variant, you must follow the same procedure as an unvaccinated person. 

Children living with a cas contact should not go to school until they have ended their self-isolation period: which is a minimum of seven days since they take the initial test, or longer for unvaccinated children. 

A timeline of Covid infection in a typical household. Source: mesconseilscovid.sante.gouv.fr

There are some basic ways to help avoid infection if you live with someone who has tested positive.

Where possible avoid close proximity: try to isolate the infected person in a separate room with the door close; do not share a bed with infected person; do not share things like towels, soap, cutlery, plates, phones; do not eat together. 

Ensure sanitary conditions in the household: aerate your home for ten minutes per hour throughout the day; avoid activities that disperse dust particles throughout the house like vacuum cleaning; ask the infected person to clean all the surfaces they touch like door handles, sinks, bathroom surfaces etc. with bleach-based or alcohol-based cleaning products; do not allow the ill person to leave wet towels in communal areas; the infected person should put any waste products in a separate bin, double-bagged. 

If it is impossible for you to avoid contact with the infected person because of the size of your accommodation for example, you should wear a mask, try to keep a two metre distance, and avoid discussions of 15 minutes or more. 

Can I get vaccinated if I am a cas contact

If you have been in contact with someone who has covid and you haven’t since tested negative seven days after this contact, you should not get vaccinated. If you live with someone who has tested positive, you must wait for 17 days after this person’s symptoms first appeared to do a test. If you test negative, you can get vaccinated. 

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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