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HEALTH

What are the new Covid rules as France scraps its State of Emergency?

France has ended its Covid-19 state of emergency after more than two years - so what does this mean for daily life in France and travel rules?

What are the new Covid rules as France scraps its State of Emergency?
A man wears a face mask as he passes by a Covid-19 testing centre in the city of Nantes, western France, on July 16, 2022. (Photo by Loic VENANCE / AFP)

As of August 1st, France has ended its Covid-related state of emergency, which was put into place at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and was extended several times. Instead the parliament has adopted a bill giving alternative measures in case of a resurgence in the pandemic.

Here is what has changed;

Lockdowns and curfews – The new legislation has taken away the possibility of further lockdowns and curfews without a parliamentary vote.

Although such measures have not been in effect for several months, it was previously possible for the government to implement lockdown measures or a curfew, without needing the agreement of Parliament. 

The vaccine pass – This too has not been in effect for several months, but similar to lockdowns and curfews, the government would need to go through Parliament if it wished to re-instate the vaccine pass.

The health pass – the health pass (giving people the option of showing either a vaccination certificate or a recent negative Covid test) has been required to enter health centres or nursing homes, but this came to an end on August 1st, so there is now no venue in France that requires either a health or vaccine pass.

The scientific council – As of Sunday, July 31st, the scientific council on Covid-19 and the vaccine strategy steering committees have been scrapped and replaced by a new committee to monitor and anticipate health risks. These two bodies, which the government relied on during the Covid-19 pandemic, were dissolved when the State of emergency came into effect.

The new committee will be made up of sixteen scientific or health professionals – yet to be appointed – who will issue opinions on strategies for all types of health risks including infectious diseases of humans and animals, environmental and food pollutants and climate change.

Mask rules – Since May face coverings have face coverings have been ‘recommended‘ rather than ‘required’ on public transport and only remained compulsory in hospitals and other health centres.

Since the end of the state of emergency the government can no longer require masks to be compulsory in health settings, but individual hospital directors, doctors or pharmacies can require masks to be worn.

AP-HP, the public hospitals of Paris, have decided to maintain the requirement to wear a mask in their establishments.

Individual businesses can set dress code standards and require masking on their premises, but general masking in public spaces is no longer required.

However, obligatory masking “could be made compulsory again in the form of ministerial or prefectural decrees, depending on the evolution or degradation of the health situation; if a new problematic variant of the virus is identified,” according to RFI

TravelThe end of the State of emergency means the end of all Covid-related restrictions at the border.

Since August 1st travellers to France – whichever country they are travelling from – no longer need to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test, an attestation that they are free of Covid symptoms or any justification for their journey. Basically, travel goes back to how it was before the pandemic.

However, the government has retained the right to reinstate compulsory Covid-19 testing at the border if the health situation changes, for example the emergence of a concerning new variant.

This can be done if the Health Minister has reported its necessity and “after the opinion of the competent scientific authority” and does not require a debate in parliament to impose.

The government will maintain the ability to bring in extra testing for those entering or leaving France until March 31, 2023. 

Covid-19 testing – Covid-19 tests will remain free for residents of France who are registered in the French health system and have completed their vaccine scheme. Visitors to France, those not registered in the French system or the unvaccinated will have to pay for a test – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test or €54 for a PCR test. Tests remain widely available at pharmacies, medical laboratories and health centres.

Self-isolation – if you test positive for Covid you are still obliged to self-isolate. The length of your isolation period depends on your vaccine status and when you test negative for the virus – full details here.

Arrêt maladie – if you test positive for Covid and need time off work you can obtain an ‘arrêt maladie‘ via the online Ameli platform, the MSA, or your healthcare provider. In some situations, this may also apply to you if you are the parent of a child under 16 years of age or of a person with a disability who must isolate due to Covid-19.

Vaccines – Vaccination against Covid-19 remains free and open to all adults without prior condition.

For a fourth dose (or second booster), those eligible include: adults over the age of 60, residents of nursing homes and longterm care units, immunocompromised persons, adults aged 18 to 60 years who are identified as being at risk for severe Covid-19, pregnant women, starting in the 1st trimester of pregnancy, and finally people living with or in regular contact with vulnerable or immunocompromised individuals. 

For those aged 80 and over, a telephone number remains available to help arrange for their vaccination at home or at a health professional’s office.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

Tracing tools – Several of these resources will remain in place until next year. First, ‘Contact Covid,’ which monitors and supports infected people, as well as those they have come into contact with, will be extended until January 31, 2023. The national screening information system (Sidep), which centralises all test results, has been also extended, in this case until June 30, 2023.

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HEALTH

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

Experts have warned of a particularly bad flu epidemic this winter in France due to a combination of lowered immune systems and 'vaccine apathy' - urging high-risk groups to get their shot as soon as the flu vaccination campaign begins in October.

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

France’s annual flu vaccine campaign will officially get under way on October 18th this year – and medical experts have warned that this year’s season may be a bad one amid fears of “vaccine apathy”.

When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters in France this autumn

Immunologist Alain Fischer, who chaired France’s Conseil d’orientation de la stratégie vaccinale throughout the Covid-19 pandemic said that the high number of flu cases in Australia and the southern hemisphere in its winter were “a warning sign” that this winter’s flu, coupled with rising cases of Covid-19, could lead to a sharp rise in hospitalisations again in the winter.

“For two years, influenza has been kept at bay, thanks to the barrier measures we have put in place against Covid,” he told Le Parisien. 

“This year, it will be difficult to maintain the same level of protection: masks, distancing, intensive hand washing … Faced with this relaxation, there is a serious risk of flu epidemic.”

Between two million and six million people contract flu every winter in France. The infection is responsible for between 4,000 and 6,000 deaths every year, usually among people aged 65 and over. But in ‘bad’ flu years, that mortality figure can rise rapidly.

READ ALSO When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

The country, meanwhile, is at the start of what is being described as an “eighth wave” of Covid, and the Haute Autorité de santé recommends the eligible, vulnerable people ensure they are vaccinated against both viruses as early as possible. “A Covid-flu cohabitation is not a good thing,”  Fischer said. “It is synonymous with a very high number of hospitalisations. 

“Hence the objective of two strong vaccination campaigns – Covid and flu – especially for the most vulnerable.”

“The double injection is very good, and practical for patients. But I think that we should not wait, especially vulnerable people. It is a mistake to think that you will get your Covid booster when the flu vaccine is here – the Covid jab should not be delayed.”

Currently less than 40 percent of people eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine have received their latest dose.

Dual-strain Covid-19 vaccines designed to combat both delta and omicron variants will be available in France from October 3rd.

READ ALSO France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

“It is quite possible to get your Covid injection in early October and flu vaccine in late October – you will need both anyway,” Fischer said.

The Haute Autorité de Santé recommends influenza vaccination for the following groups:

  • people aged 65 and over; 
  • people with chronic diseases; 
  • pregnant women;
  • people suffering from obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 40 kg/m 2 );
  • Infants under 6 months at risk of serious influenza;
  • Families and others close to immunocompromised people; 
  • home help workers caring for vulnerable individuals.

For anyone in these groups, the flu vaccine is 100 percent covered by health insurance and delivered free of charge to the pharmacy, on presentation of a voucher.

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