France announced an easing of Covid restrictions from Monday that will enable fully vaccinated people who test positive to isolate for seven days instead of the previous 10 days. Although France is one of six countries in the world to have recorded more than 10 million cases since the pandemic began, authorities are juggling tough choices between public health and economic concerns.
Fully vaccinated people who test positive will only have to isolate for seven days regardless of the coronavirus variant they were infected with, but can leave quarantine after five days if they show an antigen or negative PCR test.
There will be no quarantine for fully inoculated individuals who have a close contact test positive.
However, people must respect protective measures and "undergo regular testing", French Health Minister Olivier Véran said in an interview with the weekly “Le Journal du Dimanche”.
Until now, those who tested positive in France had to isolate for 10 days with their close contacts also quarantined for a week.
The maximum isolation period could be up to 17 days – regardless of the variant – if a household contains a positive case.
The change in rules responds to the need "to take into account the extremely rapid evolution of the spread of the Omicron variant in France", said a ministry of health statement.
It should allow a "benefit-risk balance aimed at ensuring the virus is controlled while maintaining socio-economic life", the statement added.
Additionally, "the first available virological data" showed "the incubation period of Omicron appears to be faster than previous variants, favouring a possible reduction in the length of isolation".
Meanwhile, people who test positive for the virus – but who are not fully vaccinated – must complete a 10-day quarantine, according to the same rules, but shortened to seven should they present a positive antigen or negative PCR test.
The seven-day quarantine remains for close unvaccinated contacts, who must show a negative test to leave isolation.
France becomes sixth country with more than 10 million infections
France over the weekend became the sixth country in the world to report more than 10 million Covid-19 infections since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to official data published on Saturday.
French health authorities reported 219,126 new confirmed cases in a 24-hour period, the fourth day in a row that the country has recorded more than 200,000 cases.
In his New Year’s Eve address to the nation, French President Emmanuel Macron said the next few weeks would be difficult but he stopped short of imposing new restrictive measures to contain the virus.
The government has announced that from Monday wearing masks in public spaces would be mandatory for children as young as 6 years old versus 11 before.
Some big cities, including Paris and Lyon, have re-imposed wearing of masks in the street for everyone.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)