A series of new anti-Covid measures – or changes to existing measures – begin in France today (Monday, January 3) as the Delta and Omicron variants continue to spread. Here are the main points.
Isolation for positive or contact cases
The rules for isolation are now the same no matter which variant is detected, Health Minister Olivier Véran has confirmed. Previously rules were different for the Omicron variant.
Fully vaccinated people
- Anyone who tests positive must self-isolate for seven days, with no further test needed
- Isolation can be lifted earlier, after five days, if an antigen or PCR test at this point is negative, on condition that there have been no Covid symptoms for 48 hours
- No quarantine for contact cases
- You must take a PCR or antigen test on the day that you are identified as a contact case (day 0), , followed by a test on day 2, and another on day 4. These tests are free from the pharmacy if you show your first test.
- You must still use barrier methods such as wearing a mask
Non-vaccinated people (or without full vaccination and booster)
- Anyone who tests positive must self-isolate for 10 days
- Isolation can be lifted earlier, after seven days, if an antigen or PCR test at that point is negative then (on condition that there have been no symptoms for 48 hours)
- Self-isolation for seven days
- Can only leave isolation after a negative PCR or antigen test
For children under 12 who are contact cases from school, they can return to class only if they show a negative test result, followed by further self-tests on day 2 and day 4.
Non-vaccinated people will continue to pay for tests.
Restaurants and transport
Until at least January 23, cafes and restaurants will only be allowed to welcome clients in seating areas (if they have one).
On trains and domestic flights, the sale and service for on-board consumption of food and drinks will be banned”.
SNCF has said that taking off your mask to eat or drink will be banned, except on long-distance Thalys and Eurostar services. Yet, the Transport Ministry has said that “on long journeys, this rule will be applied with discretion, especially for young children”.
Sports and shows
The public will only be allowed to enter venues if they have a seated place, with a limit of 2,000 people in indoor, covered spaces; and a limit of 5,000 for outdoor venues.
Masks for over-6s
Until at least January 23, children aged 6 and over will be required to wear masks on public transport and in public indoor areas, in around 50 departments where the prefect has enacted this decree.
Masks will be required in buses, on the metro, trains, planes, boats, taxis, shops, commercial centres, covered markets, theatres, performance halls, churches and religious centres, sports halls (except when practising sport), museums, libraries, and more.
Until now, the rule only applied to children aged 11 and over.
The government is asking employers to enforce home working for at least three days a week, and four days if possible, if the job permits. This is set to last for at least three weeks.
In primary schools, if a teacher is absent, pupils will not be able to be allocated to other classes, the national education ministry announced on Friday.
National Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said that the government is working to increase the number of substitute teachers, including calling on more agencies and teachers in retirement.
He said that closing schools would be a last resort.
Childcare workers working at home or in their own business will now be able to welcome six children at the same time, in contrast to the four previously allowed.
New meeting to take place
The new measures come as Prime Minister Jean Castex is set to meet with ministers today at 16:00 to discuss the situation.
There were 58,432 new cases confirmed in France in the past 24 hours, with Delta still making up 84.3% of the sequenced positive test results. This number of cases is thought to be lower than usual as on Sunday many testing facilities are closed.
Health Minister Mr Véran today said that “we are at a high plateau” of Delta cases but that Omicron appears to be less dangerous.
While it is more contagious, it does appear to be placing less pressure on hospitals and intensive care units, Mr Véran said.
Thomas Fatôme, director of national health insurance la Caisse nationale d’Assurance maladie, told Franceinfo: "We are trying to find a balance between isolating people when it is necessary, while not blocking off the country. We have already seen the damage this can cause for public health and mental health.”