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France Covid: Where do most people catch the virus?

A new study asked 25,000 people who had Covid-19 where they had become infected, with home, out for dinner or at work the most common sites

17 December 2020
A man serves coffee in a cafe while wearing a mask. France Covid: Where do most people pick up the virus?Retail staff were among the groups most likely to have been infected by the virus when at work
By Hannah Thompson

At home, out for dinner or at work - these are some of the most common sites of Covid-19 infection in France, a new study of 25,000 people has found.

The study by epidemiologist Professor Arnaud Fontanet - a member of government advisory body Le Conseil Scientifique - questioned 25,000 people in France who had tested positive for Covid-19 where they believed they had picked up the infection.

News source Europe 1 published the results today.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said that many of the government's decisions on Covid had been based on the study.

Home and partners

People’s own homes were the most common site of infection, with two-thirds of people saying they had got the virus from their partner coming back into the house from the outside.

The next most-common infection source was meetings with extended family, work colleagues, and friends. At home and when seeing friends, people are much less likely to wear a mask, allowing the infection to spread more easily.

'Secret' restaurant events - but not shops

The study found that infection rates were higher in bars, restaurants and sports halls - but less so in shops.

And while part of the study was done during confinement - when bars and restaurants were supposedly closed anyway - Professor Fontanet said: "Many of the infections in bars and restaurants were due to secret events."

In contrast, it found that going to shops did not increase the risk of infection by much.

When eating out or with children

Eating out was found to increase the risk of infection, especially as people take off their mask at the table to eat, and may stop respecting barrier methods.

Being close to children or caring for them was the next most-common risk factor after this.

Retail staff and healthcare workers

People who continued to go out to work during the pandemic were the most likely to report being infected while there.

This includes retail staff, healthcare personnel, managers, workers, and drivers.

In contrast, university professors and teachers were found to have avoided infection the most.

Isolation regrets

The study also found that 94% of people questioned had self-isolated due to their infection, but admitted they had likely done so too late. Only 42% of those asked said that they had self-isolated within the first few days of getting symptoms.

Currently, France is no longer under lockdown but has instead imposed a curfew from 20:00 to 06:00. Shops are open but restaurants, cafes and bars are not.

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