France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body outlined how Covid-19 rules changed starting on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test
A positive Covid-19 test in Rennes, western France on March 17, 2022. (Photo by DAMIEN MEYER / AFP)

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules relaxed in France as the country brought an end to compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes took effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 would return to normal starting February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 now also have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that began at the start of February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.

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Minister demands Paris officials order striking refuse collectors back to work

With refuse piling up on the streets, France’s Interior Minister has called on Paris officials to enact a controversial and rarely used power to force striking waste collectors in the capital back to work.

Minister demands Paris officials order striking refuse collectors back to work

Nine days into the refuse workers’ walkout in Paris over pension reform, the French government has decided to step in – risking a public spat with the capital’s City Hall, which declares that forcing workers back would contravene the right to strike, a fundamental principle which is enshrined in the French constitution.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin instructed City Hall to engage rarely-used emergency powers to force strikers back to work to clear the near-7,000 tonnes of uncollected garbage lining the streets of the capital.

Darmanin told the Paris police chief to ask the Mayor’s office to ‘réquisition’ staff to clean up the mess littering the city streets.

Réquisition powers allows local préfets to compel workers to return to work, on pain of a €10,000 fine or six months in prison. The power can be invoked only in certain conditions, such as when national security or stability is threatened by strike action which undermines the infrastructure. 

The government used the same powers last October to end blockades of oil refineries that had seen fuel stations across the country run dry, although the power is regarded very much as a ‘last resort’.

If the city council “does not respond to the requisition, the state will take over” to empty the bins and clean-up the streets, Darmanin added.

The Ministry said the decision was made for “health” reasons, after Rachida Dati, the right-wing mayor of the capital’s seventh arrondissement and a former Justice Minister, had written to Darminin directly, asking him to intervene.

Dati told BFMTV: “I don’t dispute the right to strike (…) but if  [refuse collectors] endanger the population, then it’s no longer a right.”

Darminin’s call came a matter of hours after Paris’s deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire had told journalists that City Hall was not planning to order striking refuse workers back to work.

Grégoire said: “Requisition would not work, we do not believe in it … we are not going against the exercise of the right to strike as long as there is no danger to the lives of others or to public health, and we’re making sure that’s not the case. 

“The state can requisition if it wants to. It doesn’t need mayors asking for it.”

City Hall manages refuse collection services for half of Paris’s arrondissements and said it was “in solidarity” with the protests against pension reform, of which the current strike is part.

But, Grégoire added that it is “putting in place palliative measures” that offer “more than a minimum service”.

He said that 23,000 tonnes of the 30,000 tonnes generated in Paris during the strike period had been collected.

Parisian refuse collectors voted on Tuesday to continue the movement at least until Monday, March 20th. A number of other cities, including Nantes and Bourges, are also dealing with refuse worker strikes. If the reform is passed, refuse workers will retire at 59 rather than the current 57.

Regional health officials are monitoring the situation, and have urged people in the capital to be extra vigilant about hygiene, calling for “an effort by everyone to temporarily reduce the production of waste, and the volume of this waste”.

Waste collectors’ strikes are not particularly uncommon in France and there were similar scenes in Paris in 2020, without the threat of requisition being used. It appears that the call has been made only for Paris at present, and not for other cities where waste collectors are on strike. 

The Ile-de-France’s Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS) said: “If previous experience did not seem to lead to an epidemic or an imminent danger to public health, it remains necessary, as for any exceptional situation, to strengthen health surveillance.”

It said it had increased its, “level of vigilance (…) concerning any unusual increase in pathologies possibly linked to the situation” and is in contact with local pest-control agencies.