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The number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalized patients in France is steadily decreasing, the measures taken for employees during the pandemic will no longer apply from 1 February. However, some of these changes have been criticized by groups representing vulnerable members of society.

As the Covid-19 epidemic develops in France, so do the rules. Exceptional work stoppages, automatic isolation of people who test positive and contact tracing options will no longer apply from February 1.

The General Directorate of Health (DGS) said France now has a “favorable epidemic context”, with fewer than 16,000 patients currently hospitalized, compared with almost 25,000 at the end of December.

The official decree, published in the Official Journal on Saturday, January 28, effectively “puts an end” to the automatic terminations that led to the right to compensation without the need for a doctor’s note.

Created at the start of the 2020 Covid health crisis “to limit the spread of the epidemic”, this system has been expanded several times.

While the social security budget for 2023 provided for the end of this measure no later than the end of the year, the government decided to postpone this deadline.

No more contact control

The DGS announced in a press release that “systematic isolation” of positive cases and testing after two days for their contacts “will no longer be required” but will remain “recommended”.

The recording of positive test results in the centralized state computer file SI-DEP will now be done only with the consent of patients, and not systematically.

This epidemic monitoring tool is scheduled to be discontinued by the end of June.

Contact tracing through the Covid Contact Service, run by the National Health Insurance Agency, will end for good on Wednesday.

It has already begun reducing its workforce from 6,500 full-time employees in 2021 to 350 in September, according to government data.

The “TousAntiCovid” application will continue to store vaccination records or test results.

Vulnerable patients are concerned

According to the decree, the regime of part-time work for the most vulnerable sections of the population has been extended for at least a month.

However, the association, which represents patients with special health needs, is concerned that this will not be enough time for people to return to a full working life and that it will be a risk to their health.

This partial unemployment measure affects about 400 people in France.

These are immunocompromised patients, those with heart disease or obesity, who are particularly vulnerable to exposure to the virus in the workplace and for whom remote work is difficult or impossible.

Thus, they will be able to continue to receive partial wages without going to work, at least for another month, the Ministry of Health reported.

Magali Léo, a representative of Renaloo, an association for kidney patients, says this is unfair.

“Immune-compromised patients continue to pay a very high price for Covid-19,” she told the public website France Info on Tuesday. “They are most often found in intensive care units.”

“We’re talking about fragile patients who are either being sent back to work on site after a month or looking at other options like disability, incapacity, even termination,” she says, which in some cases will mean ending their career.

She says this partial system of activity for the most fragile should be maintained for these patients while they are at risk of Covid-19.

On the front line

Unions in some cases also expressed concern about the rule changes.

Given that Covid will count as a reason for sick leave, just like any other illness, there will be a waiting period before Social Security will pay benefits.

“There is a risk that employees who do not want to lose wages will return to work too quickly,” Dominique Corona, deputy general secretary of the UNSA union, told France Info.

In addition, Marlene Schiappa, Secretary of State for the Social and Solidarity Economy and Associative Life, announced on Saturday that 25,000 frontline workers had been granted French citizenship.

During the Covid-19 crisis, the government launched a special system for foreign workers called “frontline”. It was designed for domestic helpers, cashiers, garbage collectors or healthcare workers in particular.

“They took a step towards the republic, and therefore it was normal for us, with the minister of the interior and the president of the republic, that we take a step towards them,” she explained in an interview with France Info.

Still on high alert

The World Health Organization said on Monday that the Covid-19 pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern.

“This virus should not be underestimated, it has surprised us and will continue to surprise us, and it will continue to kill unless we do more to provide healthcare to people who need it and fight misinformation in the world. “global scale,” insisted CEO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

According to official data, WHO on Friday identified more than 752 million sick people and almost 7 million dead.