Northern French communes ban swimming after beaches contaminated

Authorities in northern France have banned swimming at the beaches of Urville-Nacqueville, Ravenoville and Foucarville following a bacterial contamination.

Authorities in northern France have banned swimming on certain beaches following a bacterial contamination.
Authorities in northern France have banned swimming on certain beaches following a bacterial contamination. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

Many will regret that the sea is no off-limits – particularly in the midst of one of the country’s most severe heatwaves in history. 

On Friday evening the Regional Health Authority of Normandy warned of a bacterial contamination of three beaches along the Channel – Urville-Nacqueville, Ravenoville and Foucarville. The communes of La Hague and Sainte-Mère-Eglise then moved to ban swimming. 

Local decrees mention high levels of E. coli as well as Enterococcus in the water. 

Experts believe that the high prevalence of Enterococcus is likely due to sewage. 

“In the case of the Channel beaches, the fact that there is Enterococcus is a sign that there is feacal contamination in the water,” said infectious diseases expert Jean-Paul Stahl in a FranceInfo interview.  

The ban on swimming at Urville-Nacqueville will go on until at least Tuesday June 21st and will only be lifted if tests show that the contamination has settled down. 

The ban on swimming at the beaches of Ravenoville and Foucarville will last until June 30th. 

Other contaminations

France has suffered other bacterial contaminations in recent days. 

On Friday, residents of Châteauroux in the Indre département were warned to stop drinking tap water after high levels of E. coli were detected. 

The exact source of the outbreak is unknown.

Among the many hypotheses put forward by scientists and local officials is that there has been some kind of sewage leak or that somehow bacteria from an abattoir entered the water supply – E. coli is often found in the intestines of cattle. 

Children and infants are particularly vulnerable to the bacteria. Local officials have banned the bathing or showering of these groups until the water is deemed safe. 

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French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.