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France Covid-19: Self-isolation recommended but not forced

People who test positive will now be offered ‘home visits’, but the PM stopped short of making self-isolation legally enforced. Plus, what to do if you test positive

11 December 2020
By Hannah Thompson

People in France who test positive for Covid-19 will not be legally forced to self-isolate, but instead have “home visits” to help them, Prime Minister Jean Castex has said in his speech on the next stages of deconfinement.

Mr Castex spoke of the measure during his speech last night at 18:00.

Last month, President Macron had suggested that people who test positive for Covid-19 could be required by law to self-isolate so that they do not spread the virus further.

But Mr Castex last night said: “The conversations that I have had on this subject in recent days, with political and parliamentary representatives, have led me to conclude that imposing such a rule by law does not have consensus.

“We will therefore move towards offering improved help for ill people.”

New home visits for self-isolating people

The government has announced that “home visits” will be provided for people who test positive and who are requested to stay at home.

The ministry for health has said that this will consist of a team of health workers and other professionals, depending on the situation.

Health Minister Olivier Véran said: “The objective is that every person who is diagnosed with the virus is offered a home visit by a multidisciplinary, professional team, including a health worker and a nurse.”

Another aim of the visits will be to improve the contact tracing of ill people, which will start “each time, as soon as a rapid positive test is made”. This team of workers will therefore be able to “offer antigen tests to everyone who shares the same household” as the infected person, to “isolate more rapidly and effectively”.

The team will also aim to offer advice to self-isolating people, and to offer extra help and support, such as shopping and food if needed.

This will especially be of use “if the person cannot do it themselves, if they live alone, and cannot go shopping”, said Mr Véran.

Visits and help for the most vulnerable may also include childcare and the possibility of being rehoused during their illness.

Mr Véran added: “We are working on a document, a sort of charter, that will be given to a patient as soon as they have a test, which will contain advice, and which will encourage and allow the person to respect the request to self-isolate should the test come back positive.”

Democratic debate

It comes after government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said on November 20 that the issue needed to be subject to a “democratic debate”.

Critics of self-isolation say that enforcing it by law would not work, and would lead people to avoid getting tested for fear of being forced to self-isolate, and spread the virus further.

In an open letter to newspaper Le Parisien on November 23, France Assos Santé - a group of 85 medical user associations - said that it would be “in favour of complete restriction for positive people and their contacts...under control, and in function of contagion time (from seven to 15 days depending on the case) with appropriate isolation conditions”.

But Dr Martin Blachier, a public health doctor, told BFMTV that this recommendation was “based on no new scientific data” and that the “real problem comes from [asymptomatic] people who do not know they are infected, not those who do”.

 

So what happens now if I get a positive Covid-19 test?

The rules say that you must stay at home and self-isolate, and respect barrier methods such as wearing a mask and washing hands regularly. 

A helpsheet has been created for people who test positive and who have symptoms (download here, PDF, from Santé publique France).

People with a positive test will be given surgical masks to wear if they are in the presence of others, and can also get extra masks from the pharmacy by showing proof of a positive test.

You will be asked to list your contacts, and they will be informed by your doctor or the Assurance maladie. They will probably be required to take a test and self-isolate themselves.

People with a positive test are requested to:

  • Isolate for at least seven days after the appearance of symptoms
  • Avoid contact with other people in the household or home
  • Wear a mask if there is anyone else in the room with you
  • Stay at least one metre away from others and limit discussions to 15 minutes or less
  • If possible, use a separate bathroom, or if you must use the same bathroom, clean it after use and all users must wash hands regularly using separate towels etc.
  • Not see vulnerable or elderly people, anyone with underlying conditions, or in the third trimester of pregnancy
  • Use disposable tissues and throw them away immediately after use, then wash your hands, and dispose of the rubbish bag by placing it in another plastic bag and securing it first
  • Avoid sharing items such as soap, plates, phones, towels, etc
  • Request that friends, family or neighbours help you with shopping and errands, such as medicine, food shops or other essential items
  • Anyone who comes to help at home must wear a mask and wash their hands regularly
  • If you absolutely need to go to the doctor, testing lab or pharmacy, you must wear a mask and stay away from others for the duration of your trip

You are also requested to:

  • Take your temperature twice a day
  • In case of fever, to take paracetamol up to three times per day (but not to take any other anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen).
  • Continue any other regular medication except if told otherwise by your usual doctor
  • Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen, new symptoms appear, or for any other serious reason
  • Call the emergency number 15 if you are having trouble breathing (or 114 for the deaf or hard-of-hearing)
  • Air out your rooms regularly, by opening the window for at least 10 minutes per day
  • Disinfect surfaces you have touched using a 70% or more bleach or alcohol-based product
  • Wash all towels, sheets, clothes, etc at 60C at least, in a washing machine
  • Same for crockery and cutlery etc, either by hand or in a dishwasher
  • All other questions or issues can be asked of your doctor, or on the government’s free coronavirus phone line of 0800 130 000.

More information can also be found at gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus or the health ministry site solidarites-sante.gouv.fr.

What if I don’t have symptoms?

If you have tested positive, even if you do not have any symptoms, you must self-isolate for seven days after the test result.

If symptoms appear, you must isolate for a further seven days since the start of the symptoms, and at least 48 hours after the end of your fever. You must tell and consult with your doctor.

If no symptoms appear, after seven days you may stop self-isolating, but still continue to avoid contact with vulnerable people, continue to wear a mask, and stay at least one metre away from others as much as possible (as well as washing hands and other usual measures).

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