France is to increase self-isolation times for Covid-positive cases from seven to 10 days due to uncertainty over the new variants, the health minister announced yesterday.
Health Minister Olivier Véran confirmed the plan at a press conference last night.
He said: “The uncertainty around the variants requires us to remain absolutely on alert.”
Isolation extended to 10 days
From Monday, February 22, people who test positive - with any strain of Covid - must self-isolate for 10 days, rather than the seven previously required.
He said: “Certain scientific studies suggest the possibility that the variants have a contagion time that is longer than regular Covid.
“Without waiting for confirmation, and due to the fact that the spread of the variants is rising, I have decided that the self-isolation time for all patients with a positive test will rise, from Monday, from seven to 10 days.”
The self-isolation period had already been extended to 10 days for people who tested positive for the Brazilian or South African variant, and a negative PCR test was required for permission to end the isolation.
Isolation times will remain at seven days for contact cases, Mr Véran said.
Mr Véran also said that the current rules that allow people who test positive to obtain immediate time off from work via the assurance Maladie would be extended until June 1.
No end to rules confirmed
The health minister did not announce an end date to the other current rules in place against Covid, such as the 18:00 curfew, and the closure of all non-food commercial centres larger than 20,000m2; cinemas, theatres, restaurants, and bars.
He said: “I hear, I read in the press - I see many articles, and polls where the public - understandably - have had enough; and says ‘Open the bars, the restaurants; open the cinemas, open the theatres’.
“We would like to do that. But if we did that now, it would be absolutely irresponsible, because we would be risking having to close everything in two weeks.”
He said: “Now is not the time for relaxing [the rules]. Nothing would be worse than lifting restrictions at the wrong moment.”
Read more: Covid France: No end set for curfew despite MP calls
The minister said that currently in France, 36% of positive cases were of the UK variant, and 5% were of the Brazilian or South African strains.
The latter is especially true in Moselle, which is seeing a higher-than-average incidence (the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants) of the Brazilian and South African variants; and Dunkirk, where the UK variant now accounts for 70% of cases.
But, Mr Véran said: “The incidence has stabilised, and even dropped a little, in Moselle.”
Yet, he said that the “situation is now particularly worrying in Nice”.
The minister will visit Nice this Saturday as a result.
Alert as Covid UK variant hits 70% in Dunkirk