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COVID-19

Paxlovid and vaccines: The latest Covid advice from the French government

The French health minister outlined on Friday the government recommendations amid the "tripledemic" of Covid-19, influenza, and bronchiolitis that has hit the country in recent weeks.

Paxlovid and vaccines: The latest Covid advice from the French government
French Health Minister Francois Braun wears a face mask as he attends a session on December 8th 2022. (Photo by Teresa SUAREZ / POOL / AFP)

French Health Minister François Braun held a press conference with other public health officials on Friday to provide the public with the government’s latest public health advice.

Earlier in the day, the French health minister said on BFMTV that fourth doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were available to all groups. Previously, only at-risk populations were eligible.

READ MORE: Can anybody in France now get the latest Covid booster vaccine?

Here is what the public health officials said:

The situation

Health Minister Braun began the press conference by reminding the public that France is facing a “triple epidemic,” as the nine Covid-19 wave occurs alongside seasonal illnesses of influenza and bronchiolitis. Specifically, the health minister said that hospital emergency room visits and hospitalisations for the flu had doubled in the last week.

Therefore Braun called for voluntary acts of “solidarity” to prevent a rise in cases and serious infections, particularly of Covid-19, during the end-of-year festivities. 

According to Braun, France counted more than 100,000 new Covid-19 contaminations in recent days, with more than 1,000 patients being treated in critical care services.

Wearing a mask

The public officials reminded the public that wearing a mask is an “act of solidarity.” While the mask is not required, it is highly recommended, particularly in “crowded and enclosed areas,” such as public transportation.

Minister Braun encouraged wearing a mask when travelling to Christmas holiday celebrations this year.

“You do not know if the person next to you is immune-compromised,” said COVARS head Brigitte Autran, recommending that people wear masks while travelling.

Braun also mentioned that in nursing homes and care centres, masks could become required, at the behest of the establishment’s management.

Getting vaccinated against both influenza and Covid-19

The minister of health noted that the level of vaccination in France against influenza was “five percent lower this year” when compared with 2021, making the population more vulnerable. Additionally, the minister expressed concern over the rate of vaccination against Covid-19 (second boosters) in nursing homes and care centres to be “too low,” with rates around “21 and 23 percent for the over 80s.”

Braun reiterated that all groups in France are now eligible for a second booster against Covid-19. The minister said he was “appealing to individual and collective responsibility” in encouraging people to get both the Covid-19 and flu vaccines prior to spending the Christmas holidays with family members.

The minister said that all groups in France should be eligible to receive both vaccines at the same time – one in each arm. 

READ MORE: Flu vaccine opens to all adults in France: What you need to know

Access to Paxlovid

Brigitte Autran said that the treatment drug, Paxlovid, is very effective against the BQ1.1 Covid-19 variant, which is circulating around France currently. She explained that groups at-risk of developping severe forms of Covid-19, or those whose immune systems did not generate responses to the vaccines, would be eligible for prescriptions from their primary care doctors for Paxlovid.

A prescription can be created for a three month period, without the patient needing to be sick with Covid-19 already. Once such a patient tests positive, they can use the existing prescription to access Paxlovid.

Protecting children and babies against bronchiolitis

Romain Basmaci, a pediatrician and professor of medicine, issued several recommendations. He advised that parents wipe down children’s toys and avoid sharing toys between two children. He also recommended that if a parent becomes sick, they should begin wearing a mask and decreasing physical contact with their young child to better protect them.

He added that keeping children’s noses clean and clear is a good practice to protect them while sick, even though there are no specific treatments for bronchiolitis. Additionally, he said that if your child is struggling to eat, smaller quantities rather than full meals may be a helpful way to ensure they remain well-nourished.

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TRAVEL NEWS

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

Injuries and even deaths while skiing in France have seen a sharp rise in recent years - leading the French government to create a new ski safety campaign.

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

The early part of the ski season in France was dominated by headlines over the lack of snow in popular mountain resorts – but, now that climatic conditions have started to improve for skiers and there is at least some snow, the winter sports season is in gearing up to hit full swing.

READ ALSO Snow latest: Have France’s ski resorts reopened?

Heading into the winter holiday season – French schools in ‘Zone A’ break up for two weeks on February 4th, followed on February 11th by schools in ‘Zone B’, while schools in Zone C finish for the vacation on February 18th – the government has launched an awareness campaign highlighting skiing good practice and how to avoid accidents.

READ ALSO What can I do if I’ve booked a French skiing holiday and there’s no snow?

The Pratiquer l’hiver campaign has advice, posters and videos highlighting safety on the slopes, in an effort to reduce the number of accidents on France’s mountains – where, every year, between 42,000 and 51,000 people have to be rescued, according to the Système National d’Observation de la Sécurité en Montagne (SNOSM)

The campaign, with information in a number of languages including English, covers:

  • on-piste and off-piste safety advice (signalling, avalanche risks, freestyle areas, snowshoes, ski touring, etc.);
  • Help and instructions for children explained in a fun and educational way (educational games, games of the 7 families to be cut out, safety quizzes, advice sheets for sledding, skiing, prevention clips, etc.);
  • physical preparation (warm up before exercise, prepare your muscles and stretch well, also how to adapt the choice of pistes and the speed to your physical condition);
  • equipment and safety (helmet, goggles, sunscreen, etc.);
  • marking and signalling on the slopes (opening and marking of green, blue, red and black slopes, off-piste).

There are 220 ski resorts in France, the world’s second largest ski area, covering more than 26,500 hectares of land, across 30 departements.

In the 2021/22 ski season, totalling 53.9 million ‘ski days’, according to SNOSM, emergency services made 49,622 interventions in France’s ski areas, and 45,985 victims were treated for injuries.

The results show an increase in the number of interventions by ski safety services – a rise of 13 percent compared to the average of the five years prior to the pandemic – and the number of injured, up 8 percent. 

A few incidents on the slopes made the headlines at the time, including the five-year-old British girl who died after an adult skier crashed into her in the Alpine resort of Flaine, and the French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who died at the age of 37 after an accident while skiing in La Rosière, Savoie.

In total, 12 people died as a result of skiing incidents in France in the 2021/22 ski season. Three died following collisions between skiers, two after hitting an obstacle, and seven as a result of a fall or solo injuries. SNOSM also reported “a significant number of non-traumatic deaths, mostly due to cardiac problems” on France’s ski slopes.

The injuries due to solo falls – which represent 95 percent of all injuries –  on the ski slopes increased 2 percent compared to winter 2018/2019. Collisions between users fell, however (4.8 percent against . 5.6 percent) as did collisions between skiers and other people, and obstacles (0.7 percent compared to 0.85 percent).

The number of fatalities caused by avalanches, however, is at a historic low over the period 2011 to 2021, in part because of a relative lack of snow – leading to a drop in the number of avalanches and fewer people going off-piste, while awareness campaigns are hitting their mark, according to SNOSM.

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