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Omicron in France: Rules if you are infected or a close contact

We look at what the French authorities require you to do with regard to the Omicron variant. The rules vary from other variants in the case of contact cases

The rules are the same if you test positive for Omicron or for another Covid variant, but different if you are a close contact of an Omicron case Pic: Jarun Ontakrai / Shutterstock

People in France who are found to have been infected with the new Omicron variant must follow the same procedure as those infected with any other variant. 

However, people identified as close contacts of Omicron cases need to take stricter precautions than the contacts of other cases.

As of December 14, at least 170 Omicron cases have been detected in mainland France, according to Santé publique France.

Positive cases 

If you receive a positive antigen test result, you must take a PCR test to confirm. 

You will be contacted by Assurance Maladie, either over the phone or by text, if you have indeed contracted Covid. 

The health authorities may sequence your test sample to determine whether it belongs to the Omicron variant if your PCR result does not show any evidence of the three mutations of interest which are present in other variants and currently detected by such tests. 

France’s Direction générale de la santé has recommended that any positive PCR tests which return a ‘triple negative’ in terms of these mutations should be sequenced. 

If your test result does undergo further testing for Omicron-related mutations, you will still have to follow the rules applied to anyone who tests positive for Covid. 

These require you to: 

  • Isolate for 10 days from the start of your symptoms. If you are asymptomatic, you should isolate for 10 days after you take your PCR test. You can be granted time off work by visiting this Déclare.ameli page. 

  • Identify the people with whom you were in close contact in the 48 hours before you began experiencing symptoms, or in the past seven days if you do not have symptoms. They will then be contacted by Assurance Maladie.

  • Take note of how you are feeling. If you still have a temperature on the tenth day you should isolate until it has gone and then for a further 48 hours. If you are having breathing difficulties, ring 15. 

Assurance Maladie should provide you with information on what you need to do after you test positive and offer you any assistance you may need with regards to meal deliveries or domestic help. 

Close contacts 

Normally, those who are identified as the close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid must immediately take a PCR test and inform the people that they themselves have been in contact with, but do not need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. 

Unvaccinated people and those who are immunosuppressed do, however, have to self-isolate for seven days after the contact takes place – or 17 if they live with the person – as well as observing the other two measures.

Everyone must also carry out a second PCR test on day seven after the contact, or on day 17 if they live with the person who has tested positive. 

However, for people who have been in contact with an Omicron case, self-isolation rules always apply, even for fully vaccinated people. 

If Assurance Maladie gets in touch with you to say that someone you have spent time with has or could have been infected with the Omicron variant, you must isolate immediately for seven days, or 17 if you live with the person. 

You must also do an antigen test, and if this is positive, take a PCR to confirm. If it is negative, you will need to take another control test at the end of your isolation period, as is the case with all Covid contacts.

Finally, you must inform your own contacts that you have been close to someone who has Omicron so that they can take the necessary precautions.

A close contact is defined as being: 

  • Someone who has been in direct contact with the confirmed case at a distance of less than two metres, face to face. This applies regardless of the duration of the contact: it could have been a meal, a conversation or a single hug

  • Someone who has given or received care or medical treatment to/from the person who has tested positive

  • Someone who has shared an inside space – office, meeting room, car or restaurant table, for example – for at least 15 consecutive minutes, or a total of 15 minutes accumulated over a 24 hour period. This also applies if you were in contact with the person for a shorter period of time but were facing them when they sneezed or coughed.

People classed as close contacts will be contacted by Assurance Maladie by email, text or phone after the individual who has tested positive shares details of the people they have spent time with recently. 

What do I do if I am travelling from one of the countries where Omicron was first detected? 

Nine countries in southern Africa have been placed on a new ‘scarlet’ list for travel by the French government. 

These are: South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

People over 12 arriving in France from these countries must present to the travel company the negative test of a PCR test taken in the 48 hours before they travel or an antigen test taken in the 24 hours before. 

They will also be systematically tested for Covid when they arrive in France and be required to quarantine for 10 days. 

For this, they will either be asked to stay in their home or in a specially adapted hotel, and will have to share the address of their accommodation for checks by the authorities. 

Further details of the scarlet list rules can be found on the French Interior Ministry website. 

Related stories 

How to get a Covid test in France and when you have to pay

Omicron, tests, guests: Official guidelines for Christmas in France

France announces six new Covid measures in bid to combat fifth wave

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