France sees spike in Covid cases as restrictions ease

Monday marks a major relaxation of Covid rules in France - but case numbers appear to be rising again.

France sees spike in Covid cases as restrictions ease
Falling intensive care unit capacity has allowed the French government to loosen Covid rules, even as case numbers increase. (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP)

Covid case numbers are picking up in France, just as the country relaxes its pandemic restrictions.

The latest official data dates to Thursday, March 10th, when the seven-day case average reached 60,323 – a 16.5 percent rise compared to the week before. The incidence rate is rising among all age groups. 

“Covid is not falling, it is even increasing,” said Health Minister Olivier Véran last week, warning of a “rebound” of the pandemic. 

A sub-variant of Omicron, known as BA2, is thought to be behind the increase in cases. 

In an interview with Le Parisien, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that this strain was “more transmissible than the initial Omicron, but does not seem more dangerous.”

Covid case numbers in France are still a long way off the peak of the fifth wave, but have seen an uptick over the past weeks. (Source: Covid Tracker)

The pick-up in case numbers comes as France relaxes a number of pandemic restrictions, including the suspension of the vaccine pass and the scrapping of mask rules. 

READ MORE How has France relaxed its Covid rules?

Some feel that the loosening of the rules is too soon. 

“All of this feels too soon to me,” tweeted one of our readers.

“I reckon we’ll be back wearing masks before Easter,” replied another. 

The good news is that for now at least, admission into intensive care units due to Covid-19 is still falling after reaching unprecedented highs in mid-January during the fifth wave. 

While Véran noted that this was an encouraging sign, he said that it was vital that health authorities remain “extremely vigilant.” 

The 7-day average of daily admissions into intensive care units with Covid stood at 103 on Thursday - a 12 percent decline on the week before.

The 7-day average of daily admissions into French intensive care units with Covid stood at 103 on Thursday – a 12 percent decline on the week before. (Source: CovidTracker)

The lifting of restrictions has gone ahead as scheduled because intensive care unit capacity, which currently stands at 37 percent, is within the target limits set by the government. 

“The improvement in hospitals and our high vaccine coverage lead us to carry on with the lifting of measures,” said Prime Minister Jean Castex on Saturday. 

He called on the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions to continue wearing masks in busy indoor spaces. 

France is not alone in experiencing such an uptick, with neighbouring countries like Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the UK all seeing mini-spikes of their own. 

Member comments

  1. Covid is not going away – it will be with us forever in some form or other. But we need to learn to live with it.
    Fortunately BA2 is mild – so we can probably be careful and live with it. Just because we have the choice to not wear masks or show a vaccine pass does not mean we should stop doing the basics of social distancing and washing your hands.
    However we have got to the stage where you need a test to know if you have covid, as symptoms are so mild so that is good news

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For members


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).