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France fifth Covid wave: What changes today for workplaces and schools

New rules designed to limit the spread of Covid are now in force, including physical distancing and test changes

Colleagues chat while wearing masks in an office workspace

Rules on workplace physical distancing, at-home working and staying safe during meetings are among the new measures to come into force in France today Pic: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

From today (November 29), France has introduced changes to fight the growing fifth wave of Covid. We explain the main changes happening in schools and businesses.

The fifth wave of Covid is definitively in France and ministers have announced a series of new measures on November 25 and 26 for schools and businesses, which come into force today.

Read more: What is known about the eight suspected Omicron cases in France

Businesses 

  • Stay two metres apart in canteens and do not sit face-to-face

  • Avoid chats with colleagues in close quarters. “If you must chat, you should do so with strict barrier measures, including wearing a mask, and staying two metres away from your colleagues if you take off your mask to drink. But the advice is to avoid it where possible,” said Work Minister Elisabeth Borne on FranceInfo.

  • Ventilation is “essential”, Ms Borne said. Windows must be opened, or fans on, for at least five minutes every hour.

  • Practise physical distancing in meetings. Stay at least one metre away from colleagues and use barrier gestures such as no shaking hands, wearing masks, and using hand sanitiser.

  • Businesses are advised to offer working from home options where possible, but there is no longer a specific working-from-home rule.

  • If a child of an employee gets Covid or is a contact case and must stay at home, the parent that must stay at home will receive daily allowances from l’Assurance maladie, Ms Borne said.

She explained: “This isn’t the same as partial unemployment, and you must check with your employer if you can work from home. But if you have a very young child, it’s not very convenient. In this case, you can benefit from daily allowances.”

Schools

All departments have been on a ‘level 2’ protocol since November 15, which mainly required all pupils and students to wear masks.

Added to this, schools must now implement a tracing system to identify confirmed cases and contact cases.

The rules are: 

Primary schools

  • If a case is confirmed in a class, everyone is tested. Those who test negative can remain in school.

  • Those who test positive do distance learning from home and self-isolate for 10 days before coming back to class.

  • Families are invited to do a second test after seven days.

Collèges and lycées

  • If a case is confirmed, non-vaccinated students are to do distance learning from home for seven days.

  • Vaccinated students with complete vaccination stay in class.

If three positive cases are identified in a class, it will now be up to the regional health body l’Agence régionale de santé (ARS) to decide whether to close it, rather than proceeding to automatic closure.

Tests for students

Tests remain free for young people under 18. Tests for school pupils and students can be done in a pharmacy, laboratory, or GP surgery, or through school testing centres.

Antigen tests carried out in a pharmacy are also valid.

Health pass: Covid tests now must be from past 24 hours

The new rules come as Health Minister Olivier Véran also confirmed that PCR and antigen tests would now only be considered valid for use with a health pass from within the past 24 hours, rather than 72 hours as previously.

He said: “This means that, in concrete terms, if you have not yet been vaccinated (double dose) and if you wish to benefit from the health pass, you will have to be tested every day at your own expense, unless you are symptomatic with a prescription from your doctor or if you have been recognised as a contact case by l’Agence régionale de santé ou par l’Assurance maladie.”

The latest figures from Santé publique France and CovidTracker show that in the previous 24 hours to November 28, there were: 

  • Recorded new cases: 31,648

  • New deaths: 23 (total number of deaths in France now 118,894)

  • Rate of positive tests: 5.6%

  • Number of people having received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose: 51,843,873 (+23,700 in the 24 hours to November 25, the date of the latest update)

  • Number of people having received three doses: 6,302,353 (+242,582 in the 24 hours to November 25, the date of the latest update)

Related articles

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Recap: What are the rules for wearing a mask in France now?

New Omicron variant: PCR and isolation for arrivals to UK from France

New French study reveals places where Covid infections most likely

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