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France to relax rules on prescription glasses, contact lenses

26/10/2021

France will soon allow people aged 16-42 who need to renew a prescription for glasses or contact lenses to do so without requiring a trip to an ophthalmologist. MPs voted in favour of the move, which is designed to reduce waiting times and, ultimately, afford a better service for patients, last Friday. Under the new rules, the scope of orthoptists’ work will increase and they will also be able to prescribe glasses and contact lenses. Supporters say it will make access to eyecare easier for the public and reduce waiting time but critics say it will reduce the quality of care. Up until now, anyone wishing to get a prescription for glasses in France needed to visit an ophthalmologist – a medical doctor and surgeon specialising in eye diseases and varied complaints. This is in contrast to countries such as the UK, where people can get a prescription for glasses and contact lenses by visiting a high street optician, instead of a doctor. In France, ophthalmologists are often based in hospitals. As a result, there can be delays getting appointments. In contrast, orthoptists are specialists in vision, eye movements, and how the eyes work together, and may not be based in a hospital. They are less likely to deal with urgent cases. *Image by Nicola Giordano from Pixabay 

France brings forward annual flu jab for vulnerable individuals

21/10/2021

France is bringing forward the country’s annual flu vaccination campaign by four days to begin on October 22 for people who are most at risk. France’s government public health body, Direction générale de la santé (DGS), notified pharmacists and doctors’ surgeries of the new start date on Monday this week via an “urgent” message. “This year, in the midst of a situation where the Covid-19 and influenza viruses are both circulating, the risk of co-infection, of becoming seriously ill and dying,” is increased, it said. The DGS is therefore eager to “encourage a synergy between the two vaccination campaigns and to waste no time in vaccinating the most vulnerable people against flu and against Covid.” Care homes have already begun rolling out the flu vaccine, which pharmacists, doctors, nurses and midwives will be able to administer from Friday. In 2020, lockdown restrictions, social distancing and hygiene measures meant that there was no major flu outbreak, and so this year very few people have significant immunity against the virus. Healthcare professionals are therefore concerned that this winter could see a “more intense” flu epidemic than normal. Groups who are eligible for the flu vaccination include: Over-65s People who are immunosuppressed and their immediate entourage People who suffer from chronic health conditions Obese people Pregnant women 

French study shows vaccine dramatically reduces severe COVID risk

14/10/2021

A large French study involving 22 million people has shown that COVID vaccines dramatically reduce a person’s risk of being severely impacted by the disease. While being vaccinated doesn’t guarantee you won’t catch COVID or indeed become ill, it does, however, reduce your risk of being hospitalised or dying by as much as 90 per cent. The study, published Monday, also found two-dose vaccines, such as Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca, protect against the worst effects of the so-called Delta variant. For people aged 75 and older, such vaccines offered 84 per cent protection. This figure rose to 92 per cent for people 50 to 75. The results were the same for each vaccine manufacturer. “The vaccine was never really intended to stop the disease,” says Dr. Ulysses Wu, Hartford HealthCare’s System Director of Infection Disease and Chief Epidemiologist. “It was a very nice side effect that we were preventing disease, but it’s main purpose is to prevent the morbidity and mortality should we get the disease. It was really to take a deadly disease and turn it into the common cold.” The study was conducted by a scientific group set up by France’s health system (Epi-Share), its national insurance fund (l’Assurance Maladie) and its medicine agency (ANSM). N.B. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine (Janssen) was not included in the research due to an insufficient number of patients for comparison. * Image by Surprising_Shots from Pixabay

French medical cannabis trial shows promise

05/10/2021

Pain medicines produced from cannabis oil have the potential to significantly improve the lives of patients, a French study has found. According to the initial results from a trial that began in a French hospital back in March, using medical cannabis for pain relief is effective. Psychiatrist Dr Nicolas Authier, Chair of the Scientific Committee on Medical Cannabis, is in charge of the experiment being conducted at the University Hospital of Clermont-Ferrand in central France. Dr Authier picked 20 suitable patients for participation in the trial. One patient, Mounir, 47, who suffered a stroke aged 21 and consequently struggled with painkiller addiction in an attempt to manage his neuropathic pain, told France 3: “I'm not yet completely relieved of the pain. There is some still, but it is nothing like what I felt before.” The trial is part of a two-year nationwide experiment in France that is primarily designed to evaluate the best conditions of access to medical cannabis. Depending on the patient and their condition, medical cannabis can deliver mild to significant relief. However, some patients have experienced no improvement, while others experienced more undesirable effects than therapeutic ones. Dr Authier hopes that medical cannabis can be legalized for patients whose suffering is poorly relieved by conventional treatments. Image by Julia Teichmann from Pixabay

France to offer state-funded therapy in bid to improve mental health

30/09/2021

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that the state will fund psychology appointments in the country starting next year. Speaking about the policy on Tuesday, President Macron acknowledged the psychological impact of government Covid restrictions, as well as past failures to make mental health a priority. President Macron announced several measures during a conference with professionals who work in the sector. As the coronavirus proliferated across France, “we didn't want to see the importance of mental health, and we got hit in the face with the fact that health is all-encompassing,” Macron said. “The consequences of the pandemic are just as tangible in mental health” as in physical health. He highlighted a spike in the number of children seeking psychological treatment, as well as a growing number of attempted suicides, notably among teenagers. According to President Macron, around 20% of French people suffer from depression, Under the new plans, free therapy sessions for children and young adults -- which were announced earlier this year -- will be extended to everyone with a doctor’s prescription. Psychiatric treatment is already largely reimbursed by the state. State healthcare systems in Britain, Germany and some other countries already fund therapy sessions. French health professionals say a national effort to improve access is long overdue, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has caused and aggravated psychological distress. *Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

New home kit could reduce heart attack deaths in France

21/09/2021

A new home kit that can be used to restart someone’s heart following a heart attack could reduce the number of deaths in France from cardiac arrest by 50,000 each year. Paris-based Lifeaz has seen demand for its defibrillators for the home and office soar in the first seven months since its launch. The firm hopes its machines, which deliver electric shocks to the heart, will help prevent heart attack deaths in France by enabling people to restart a heart in the crucial first four minutes of an attack. Célia Rich, the firm’s chief training adviser, said: “In places like Seattle in the United States, where there are lots of defibrillators, the chances of surviving a big heart attack are 60% to 70%, while in France they are just 5%." Lifeaz’s founder, Johann Kalchman, previously worked for a business specialising in pacemakers. This is where he became enlightened about the need to improve heart attack victims’ chances in France. It’s estimated that 80% of heart attacks occur at home, but a lack of first aid training and fear of intervening mean people often wait the 10 to 15 minutes it takes for emergency services to arrive without helping. “Our machines are designed to make things as easy as possible,” said Ms Rich. “Once they are opened, you push a button to choose between French or English and then just follow the voice instructions and pictures. “After the shock treatment, it guides people on how to give cardiac massage until the victim recovers consciousness.” The defibrillators are designed and made in France and individuals can buy them for €990, or rent them for €29.90 per month. The price is slightly higher for businesses, but includes staff training. *Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

Free access to contraception to be extended to more young women in France

09/09/2021

Women in France aged up to 25 years old will get access to free birth control from January 2022 onwards. The initiative is part of the country’s plans to combat young women not taking advantage of contraception for financial reasons. The new measure, which covers the pill, IUD devices and contraceptive implants, reportedly cost the state around 21 million euros ($24.8 million) per year, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday. Olivier Véran said those under 25 would not be charged for medical appointments, tests, or other medical procedures related to birth control. “This will cover hormonal contraception, biological tests that goes with it, the prescription of contraception and all care related to this contraception up until the age of 25. "There is a decline in contraception use among some young women and it is mainly for financial reasons," Veran told France 2 television. "It is unbearable that women cannot protect themselves, cannot have access to contraception if they want to make that choice because it is too expensive," he added. At present, the age limit for free access to contraception in France was 18 years. The policy announcement comes as President Emmanuel Macron's government prepares for the 2022 election campaign. *Image by Gabriela Sanda from Pixabay

France’s Covid-19 health pass success encourages more countries to adopt similar initiatives

07/09/2021

French Health Minister Olivier Véran has hailed the country’s Covid-19 health pass as a success, adding that similar initiatives are now being introduced in “dozens” of other countries around the world. Speaking to France 5, Mr Véran said other countries were now considering similar initiatives having seen the impact made in France. The health pass obliges people to show proof of full vaccination, a recent negative test or recent recovery from Covid-19 to be able to enter restaurants, bars and a range of other public spaces. Since the pass was announced by President Emmanuel Macron on July 12, some 12 million people (equivalent to 18% of France’s population) have been vaccinated, according to Prime Minister Jean Castex. Back in March, only 3% of the French population had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Le Monde. But this figure has now risen to 67%, highlighting how more and more people are receiving a Covid vaccine. Interestingly, take-up among the young has been particularly high considering vaccination was delayed for this group. Meanwhile, Covid health passes will no longer be required for entry into all but 64 French shopping centres this week. From Wednesday the health pass obligation will no longer apply to centres of more than 20,000 square metres in departments where the infection rate has dropped below 200 per 100,000 residents, and where cases have been falling for a week or more, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire announced yesterday (September 6). *Image by Please Don't sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay

France makes Covid-19 health pass compulsary for almost 2m workers

31/08/2021

France extended its mandate to carry Covid-19 health passes to certain categories of workers as of yesterday. The move marks a new stage in the French government’s strategy to encourage members of the public to have Covid-19 vaccines. Under the new rules, staff who work face to face with the public – for example, at cafés, cinemas or on public transport – are now required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the coronavirus in the last 72 hours. Some 1.8 million workers across the country will be encompassed by the measures. Members of the public are already required to carry health passes in order to access eateries and cultural or leisure venues. While polls suggest a majority of the public supports Covid-19 health passes, their introduction has led to protests throughout the summer, with tens of thousands of protesters staging rallies across the country on consecutive weekends. The government insists the pass is necessary to encourage vaccination uptake and avoid a fourth national lockdown, with the unvaccinated accounting for most of the Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital. [Related reading: France’s COVID health passes to be made available to foreign tourists] *Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay

New Covid-19 treatments to be made available in France later this year

26/08/2021

New Covid-19 treatments should be widely available in France before the end of the year, the head of the country's Scientific Council has predicted. According to a report in Le Parisien newspaper, Jean-François Delfraissy, an immunologist and president of the Conseil scientifique, which advises the government on medical matters, said monoclonal and polyclonal antibody treatments would be made more widely available in the coming months. Monoclonal antibody treatments are made using Covid-19 survivors’ own antibodies and are designed to fight infection just as the natural immune system would. Former US President Donald Trump received monoclonal antibody drugs when he was hospitalised with Covid-19 in 2020. At the beginning of August, French health authorities authorised the use of monoclonal antibody treatments for immuno-compromised patients who cannot be vaccinated against the virus because of their conditions. The treatments are set to be rolled out for use as required by doctors among the wider population before the end of the year. A number of pharmaceutical companies are in the process of applying for medical authorisation. They would be “effective for high-risk patients, and should reduce the number of hospitalisations”, Le Parisien reported, but would only be available under medical supervision. The drugs are intended for use in patients who are already severely ill with Covid. They do not prevent people developing the illness in the first place. *Image by Klaus Hausmann from Pixabay 

France’s COVID health passes to be made available to foreign tourists

12/08/2021

Since Monday, anyone wanting to visit a restaurant, bar or other attraction/venue in France has to use a QR code-based digital health pass. The passes are designed to prove a person has either been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or tested negative for the coronavirus in the previous 72 hours. Now, vaccinated travelers to France from outside the European Union have a way to obtain the digital health passes and visit popular tourist sites, including iconic sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, travel across the country by train, or enjoy a coffee and croissant at a Paris cafe. US travelers already in France or planning to arrive by Sunday can apply for a French health pass by submitting a copy of their CDC vaccine card, valid passport, and airline tickets to French officials via email. Visitors from the US, Canada and the rest of the world have bespoke email addresses. Visitors to France will need to have been fully vaccinated with either Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or AstraZeneca vaccines. The French government is currently accepting applications from travelers who are 18 and older, and are already in Europe or plan to arrive by August 15. Right now, it is unclear how the process may change for visitors planning trips further ahead. *Image by Phil Riley from Pixabay

Union Clinic team uses Augmented Reality during knee surgery in France first

05/08/2021

The knee surgery team at the Union Clinic in Toulouse has just acquired state-of-the-art equipment which models a patient’s knee in 3D, reproducing its movements and ligament tension during the process. The Augmented Reality (AR) technology, called the NextAR platform, helps surgeons adapt the position of the prosthesis to a closed, static joint. Using the NextAR platform and AR glasses, surgeons can benefit from an image and data modeling of the ligament tension of the patient’s knee, when in, thanks to sensors placed on the tibia and the femur. Such a setup allows the surgeons to better marry the prosthesis with the patient’s anatomy. Because the resulting prosthesis is more precise, the patient’s recovery is faster and less painful, meaning they are able to use their new knee sooner. Furthermore, the more precise matching is expected to extend the lifespan of the prosthesis, allowing the patient to benefit from it longer. The knee surgery team at the Union Clinic comprises Drs. De Ladoucette, Benzaquen, Chemama and Chapuis. Drs. Chemama and Benzaquen performed the first-ever augmented reality knee surgery using the NextAr platform on June 28, 2021. *Image by v-a-n-3-ss-a from Pixabay

The French doctor helping COVID-19 patients smell once more

03/08/2021

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist Dr Clair Vandersteen might have treated around 10 patients a year for anosmia, the inability to smell. But fast-forward to today and Dr Vandersteen has seen demand for his services increase significantly. Now, the majority of his patients are those recovering from COVID-19, up to 15 a week, in fact, at the doctor’s clinic in the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice. Loss of smell is a symptom in eight out of 10 COVID-19 cases and can the effects can sometimes linger for months after the patient has recovered from the disease. “We have seen a very large increase in patients since this time a year ago,” Dr Vandersteen said. The ENT specialist says studies show that 20% of people who lost their sense of smell still had not regained it and it’s younger individuals that appear to be worst affected. “The patients we see suffering from a loss of smell are relatively young. It is predominantly a problem that affects people in their 30s and 40s.” While for some people it might seem little more than an inconvenience, Dr Vandersteen warns the condition can make patients anxious and depressed. “The loss of smell can lead to psychological problems – 30% of people who have lost their sense of smell due to Covid are suffering from some kind of psychological damage. We love eating, especially here in France, so when chocolate tastes like cigarettes, for example, it can lead to people feeling unhappy or anxious. “If you can’t enjoy the smell of your newborn baby, or the smell of your home, it can be unsettling. It can also be dangerous – if you can’t smell gas or smoke, for example.” Dr Vandersteen’s team has come up with a three-pronged approach to help. First, patients see Dr Vandersteen, who determines their level of smell loss. Then, they are seen by Auriane Gros, a doctor of neuroscience and a speech pathologist, who helps re-educate the brain to recover the perception of smells. The final step is therapy with child psychiatrist Louise-Emilie Dumas, who runs group workshops around odours. “The team has had positive results,” Dr Vandersteen says. *Image courtesy of Dr Clair Vandersteen

French city of Nice wins UNESCO world heritage status

29/07/2021

The southern French city of Nice has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s list of world heritage sites. UNESCO announced its decision in a tweet, calling Nice -- famous for its mild climate -- the "Winter resort town of the Riviera". Nice joins more than 40 other world heritage sites in France, which include the banks of the river Seine in Paris, the Amiens cathedral, the Mont Saint Michel and stretches of the Loire Valley. "The history of Nice, which is at the same time deeply rooted and open, Mediterranean and Alpine, European and cosmopolitan, has produced an architecture and a landscape that are unique, a model for many other cities in the world," Nice's mayor, Christian Estrosi, said in reaction to the announcement. With close to one million inhabitants, greater Nice is the second-biggest city on the French Mediterranean coast after Marseille, and the fifth-biggest in France. Nice is a tourist hotspot, attracting several million visitors per year, and its airport is one of France’s busiest. The World Heritage Committee added a total of 13 cultural sites to UNESCO’s World Heritage List and one extension to an existing cultural site in Mexico. For more information about the 13 new world heritage sites, visit the UNESCO website here: https://en.unesco.org/news/cultural-sites-africa-arab-region-asia-europe-and-latin-america-inscribed-unescos-world *Image of Nice by Prosag-Media from Pixabay

French parliament approves law requiring health passes for restaurants, travel from August

27/07/2021

France’s parliament approved a bill early on Monday requiring people to have a health pass to access restaurants, bars, trains and planes from the beginning of August. At present, all venues accommodating more than 50 people already require proof of vaccination or proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Museums, cinemas, swimming pools and other venues are all included under this law. As well as the health pass requirement for all restaurants and domestic travel, the French parliament has also approved mandatory vaccines for all health workers. The law requires all healthcare sector workers to start getting vaccinated by Sept. 15 or risk suspension. President Emmanuel Macron and his government say both steps are needed to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals as infections rebound, as well as avoid new lockdowns. The bill was unveiled just six days ago. Lawmakers worked through the night and the weekend to reach a compromise, which was approved by the Senate on Sunday night and by the National Assembly after midnight. To get the health pass, people in France must have proof they are fully vaccinated, recently tested negative for COVID-19 or recently recovered from the virus. Both paper and digital documents will be accepted.

France broadens use of COVID-19 health pass, lowers fines

20/07/2021

In an attempt to curb COVID-19 delta variant infections, France will require anyone entering a restaurant, café, shopping centre, hospital or taking a long-distance train to show a special health pass from August. The same health pass – which shows that a person has been vaccinated, has recently had a negative coronavirus test or has newly recovered from the virus – will also be required for anyone over the age of 12 to enter a cinema, theatre, museum, theme park or cultural centre. Originally, any business found not to be checking said health passes of its client could face a 45,000 euro fine. This has now been lowered significantly, with fines starting at 1,500 euros and increasing progressively for repeat offenders. Checks will initially be meant to help people apply the measures, but the fines will not be imposed immediately. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal told a news conference he could not say exactly when the "run-in period" would end and fines would be imposed. He said it might be more than a week, but would be less than a month, to allow everyone the time needed to adapt to the new rules. "We have entered the fourth wave of the epidemic," Attal said after a meeting of the French cabinet. *Image by Please Don't sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay

Bastille Day: How did it get its name and why is it celebrated?

15/07/2021

Bastille Day is France’s national day and it is celebrated every year on July 14. But how did it get its name and why is it celebrated? One of the most important national holidays for people in France, Bastille Day is celebrated in remembrance of the storming of Paris’ Bastille Prison in 1789. It was on this day when revolutionists and mutinous troops stormed and captured the military fortress and prison. The event was significant as the Bastille had become a symbol of the French king, Louis XVI’s, harsh rule and tyranny. Its fall sparked the beginning of the French Revolution, which would last for a decade and see both King Louis and his wife, Marie Antoinette, executed by guillotine in 1793. The end of the French Revolution led to the formation of the French Consulate, the top-level government of France until Napoleon declared himself emperor in 1804. Bastille Day 2021 Yesterday, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, people all across France recognised Bastille Day. In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron led the national day parade, which started at the Arc de Triomphe monument and ended with a ceremony on the Concorde square. Thousands of military and public security personnel paraded by foot, on vehicles and aboard jets over Paris' Champs Elysees Avenue yesterday. You can see some coverage of the military parade in this video: https://youtu.be/hgeLhCkFBwI *Image: “Taking of the Bastille” by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr

French healthcare system to benefit from €7bn investment

13/07/2021

France’s healthcare system is to benefit from €7bn worth of investment, which is designed to drive innovation in the sector. Speaking at the end of June, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that public funding would be made available in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Part of France’s Health Innovation Plan 2030, €2bn will be invested by the state-owned Banque Publique d'Investissement (BPI) in start-ups and small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) in the healthcare industry. France will also invest €2bn in research for emerging and infectious diseases, biotherapies and digital health. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan will allocate almost €750 million for emerging infectious diseases and CBRN (nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical) threats. Another €800m will be dedicated to biotherapies and the bioproduction of innovative therapies that represent 50% of the clinical trials currently underway. These technologies enable the development of so-called personalised medicine by providing therapeutic solutions in oncology, immunology, virology and for rare diseases, for example. President Macron wants to make France the leading European country in healthcare innovation by 2030. He has committed to lift administrative hurdles to speed up organisational changes in the healthcare system. *Image by Parentingupstream from Pixabay

Medical cannabis trial to begin in hospitals across France in January

08/07/2021

Thousands of patients with a range of different ailments are due to participate in medical cannabis trials in January next year. Up to 3,000 individuals with illnesses such as epilepsy, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy side-effects, as well as those on palliative care will be trialled with medical cannabis, which will be provided in oil form for oral administration, or as dried leaves for inhalation. Smoking will not be allowed because of its ill health effects. Medical cannabis will only be prescribed “as a last resort” and the trial patients will be put forward by a specialist, neurologist or pain control doctor. Hospitals across France will take part. The Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament (ANSM) delayed the start of the trial until January 2021 so that a national electronic patient monitoring and support network could be set up. The trial was also pushed back while the ANSM found suitable suppliers. ANSM said the purpose of the trial is not to establish how effective medical cannabis is for treating certain conditions, but rather to gauge supply and follow-up. The benefits of medical cannabis are well known and highlighted by the fact its name has been changed from “therapeutic cannabis”, which implied general benefits, to “medical cannabis”. *Image by NickyPe from Pixabay

French hospitals using VR tech to help surgery patients relax

06/07/2021

Hospitals in France are using virtual reality (VR) glasses to help patients relax and reduce their stress and pain during operations. Rouen and Strasbourg hospitals have both embraced the VR technology, which was launched last year by French start-up HypnoVR. The glasses can be worn by patients before, during and after surgery, helping them relax more, which can result in local anaesthesia being used instead of general during their procedure. The glasses can also help patients better manage post-surgery pain. They are said to be particularly effective for chemotherapy patients. Patients can choose from a range of virtual scenes, including a tropical beach, walking in the woods and even a journey into space. A calming voice accompanies the visuals and there are breathing exercises and a choice of music, too. While patients still have to receive anaesthesia, the amount required is often less while wearing the VR glasses. HypnoVR president Denis Graff, a medical anaesthetist and hypnotherapist, said: “We are trying to fight against the over-consumption of drugs, and we are trying to treat pain with a non-medicinal method in order to reduce the consumption of potentially dangerous drugs that can have severe side-effects.” *Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

World-leading French robot technology helping oncologists treat liver tumors

06/07/2021

Liver cancer patients in France are benefiting from world-leading robot technology that is helping physicians treat and operate on them. The only two of their kind, the two robots, developed by Montpellier-based medical device company Quantum Surgical, assist oncologists in the delivery of a treatment known as “elimination by microwaves”. Prior to the addition of the robots, physicians needed to guide a tiny needle into a liver cancer patient’s tumor so that microwaves could be passed into it. Now, the robots carry out this part using 3D images with pinpoint accuracy. The robots are being used as part of a clinical trial at Montpellier Hospital that will test the technology on 20 patients. Currently, it is only being used on liver cancer patients, but the technology has been used target cancerous tumours in animals’ lungs and kidneys. Professor Thierry de Baère, head of therapeutic imaging at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, one of Europe’s leading cancer centres and one of two in France where the robot is currently used, said: “The robot can put a small needle in exactly the right place, from the right direction and at the right depth.” Prof de Baère has performed five operations using the technology and all the patients were discharged the next day. *Image courtesy of Quantum Surgical

Children aged 12 can now get a COVID vaccine in France

16/06/2021

On Tuesday, France lowered the age of eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to 12, opening the door for millions of French children to receive a boost to their resilience to the coronavirus pandemic. Perceval Gete, a 12-year-old French boy from the suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine, was one of the youngest people in Europe to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, according to reports. To accommodate his young age, the nurse administering the jab had to use a special child-size needle. “I wanted it to be done as soon as possible,” his mother, Melanie Gete, said at the vaccination center in the suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine after Perceval had the jab. Prior to the rule change, people in France had to be at least 18 years old, or 16 if they had underlying conditions, to be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Now, providing they have parental consent, children as young as 12 can be vaccinated. In wealthy countries worldwide, governments have been expanding their vaccination programs to include younger people, who, it is worth noting, are less likely than older individuals to get seriously ill from COVID-19. However, France’s limit of 12 years is one of the lowest of any major European Union state. Nurse Aurelie Job, who administered the vaccine to Perceval Gete on Tuesday, used a needle that is around half the length of the standard size used for adults. “Children have smaller arms so we need smaller needles to vaccinate children,” she said. “It prevents us from touching the bone while vaccinating children, and it’s less upsetting for them.”

France is sending miniature Statue of Liberty to the US for Independence Day

10/06/2021

France is sending America a miniature Statue of Liberty as a gift to commemorate the latter’s Independence Day this July. The bronze statue, nicknamed the "little sister," stands just under 10 feet tall, one-sixteenth the size of the original that stands on Liberty Island. It was loaded into a special container at the National Museum of Arts and Crafts (CNAM) in central Paris on Monday during a special ceremony. The miniature replica of the world-famous statue has been installed since 2011 in the museum's garden. It will be erected on Ellis Island, just across the water from the original, from July 1 to July 5. "The statue symbolizes freedom and the light around all the world," said Olivier Faron, general administrator of the CNAM. "We want to send a very simple message: Our friendship with the United States is very important, particularly at this moment. We have to conserve and defend our friendship." The replica bears the same neoclassic design as the original in New York, which represents the Roman goddess Libertas and stands 151 feet tall atop a giant pedestal. She is imbued with symbolism: the crown with seven spikes, representing sun rays extending out to the world; a tablet inscribed with America's date of independence in Roman numerals; and broken chains and shackles lying at its left foot, signifying the abolition of slavery in the United States. The original Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States back in 1886. *Image: The original Statue of Liberty, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

‘Covid terraces’ to become permanent fixtures this summer in Paris

09/06/2021

Last year, makeshift terraces sprang up on many cafes across Paris, allowing COVID-wary patrons to be served outdoors. Now, city hall has announced these ‘Covid terraces’ will become a permanent fixture in the French capital this summer. In response to the impact of the pandemic on beleaguered restaurant and café owners who were no longer allowed to serve indoors, the city of Paris turned over thousands of parking spaces to enable establishments to continue serving drinks and food outdoors. Many establishment owners invested in high-quality structures in the spaces, which are still usable today. Terraces will have to remain without closed walls and plants and other greenery will be encouraged. "Roofs, tarps, reception tents, wooden pallets and advertising will be prohibited," the deputy mayor in charge of commerce, Olivia Polski, told AFP. There will also be a requirement for them to shut down by 10:00pm, so that local residents won’t be disturbed by any noise. The city will hold an annual contest for the most attractive designs, a move clearly aimed at encouraging aesthetically pleasing structures. Outdoor seating can also be extended on adjacent squares and sidewalks, and also in front of neighbouring businesses, providing they give approval. No heating or music systems will be allowed, and Polski said the city would step up deployments of specially developed "Meduse" microphones for pinpointing the sources of noise pollution across the city. Outdoor drinking and dining resumed across France last month as France emerged from its third wave of coronavirus cases, a huge relief for restaurants and bars closed since last October. On Wednesday, restaurants and cafés will be allowed to start serving indoors and the nationwide curfew will be pushed back to 11:00 pm, which is expected to further swell the summer sidewalk crowds. *Image: Lucas BARIOULET AFP/File

Paris to Nice sleeper train returns to the tracks

01/06/2021

Nearly three years after it was cancelled, the night train service from Paris to Nice has returned, part of a broader push by the French Government to promote more environmentally friendly means of transportation. First introduced in the late 1800s, the Paris-Nice night train, colloquially known as ‘Le Train Bleu’, was a luxury sleeper service, internationally famed for its list of wealthy and famous passengers. However, during the 1980s, when high-speed TGV trains proliferated and cut the travel time from Paris to Nice from 20 hours down to just five, the era of luxury night trains to the French Riviera was effectively ended. While Le Train Bleu would continue its service for a few more decades, it ceased to exist under than name in 2003. Then, in Dece3mber 2017, it was discontinued completely due to the French Government withdrawing its funding. But now it’s back. Under the French Government’s pandemic plans to encourage more eco-friendly transport as part of its broader economic relaunch packages, the sleeper service from Paris to Nice is back. The first Paris-Nice night train departed Paris Austerlitz station at 20:52 on May 20 and arrived in Nice at 09:11 on May 21. To highlight just how much attention the sleeper service re-launch attracted, French Prime Minister Jean Castex was among the passengers, At a time when France is striving hard to bring down its carbon emissions, night trains are also more "virtuous" than cars or planes, as Castex's office told AFP. The night train will run daily between Paris and Nice in both directions. And while it takes twice as long as the TGV to complete the nearly 1,088-kilometre (675-mile) voyage, it’s a lot more affordable. Paris-Nice TGV tickets usually cost well over 100 euros one-way. Night train prices start from just 29 euros. *Image: Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon, Paris, courtesy of Gryffindor and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

How telehealth can complement medical tourism

27/05/2021

Prior to the Covid-10 pandemic, medical tourism was one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Indeed, according to Grand View Research, the global medical tourism market size was valued at US$44.8 billion in 2019, with compound annual growth of 21.1% expected between 2020 and 2027. However, the global SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has significantly impacted travel abroad. Luckily, we are seeing signs that things are slowly returning to normal. [Related reading: France to offer free Covid-19 tests to tourists this summer] Now, something that has come into its own during the coronavirus pandemic is telehealth. In fact, data shows usage of telehealth services has increased by more than 2,000% since 2019. But what’s going to happen to telehealth services once “normal” travel resumes? We believe they’ll still play a pivotal role, particularly when it comes to complementing medical tourism. With telehealth, patients can have consultations with specialists on the other side of the world, negating the need to travel in the first instance. If the patient and clinician agree that travel for surgery or other healthcare is necessary, telehealth can continue to afford benefits, including: - Improve the quality and efficiency of customer service by helping to coordinate care between providers in the patient’s home country and the medical tourism destination - Enhance pre-operative and post-operative care - Optimize patient and family member travel. If you’d like to find out more about our telehealth services and/or how we can help you get any medical treatment you need in France, get in touch today. *Image courtesy of mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

France to offer free Covid-19 tests to tourists this summer

18/05/2021

While many European countries insist upon travelers presenting a negative Covid-19 test before they enter, France is looking to greet tourists more openly this summer, providing foreigners with the option to have a free PCR test when they arrive in the country. Speaking during an interview with Europe 1 news on Sunday, Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clement Beaune, said France is currently the only European country providing the option of free PCR tests to its citizens. He added that this facility will now be extended to foreign tourists arriving for vacation. Beaune said the move was designed to boost tourism in France and help the country economically. “We need, we want, in good sanitary conditions, to remain the leading European and world tourist destination,” he told BFMTV, another news channel. Covid-19 PCR tests currently cost anywhere from €50-€300 in Spain, UK, Germany, and Sweden. However, the European Parliament has called for countries to provide such tests for free, or at least make them more affordable. Beaune added that the planned digital health pass, which will include travelers’ vaccination details, is being eyed as a “tool for reopening” tourism. [Related reading: France is first EU member state to start testing digital COVID-19 travel certificate] *Image courtesy of mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

France grants citizenship to more than 2000 foreign workers for their help with Covid-19

06/05/2021

France has granted citizenship to more than 2,000 foreign-born frontline workers as a reward to them for their services to the country throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Marlene Schiappa, junior interior minister in charge of citizenship, said that 2,009 people, including 665 children, had been fast-tracked for naturalisation for "showing their attachment to the nation". Back in September, Schiappa instructed citizenship authorities to speed up the applications of essential workers who had "actively contributed" in the fight against Covid-19. She ordered that they be allowed to apply for citizenship after just two years in France. Normally, under French Nationality Law, a person can apply for French citizenship by naturalization after five years' habitual and continuous residence in the country. Among the more than 2,000 individuals granted citizenship are health workers, security guards, checkout workers, garbage collectors, home-care providers and nannies. Schiappa's office said that over 8,000 people have applied for citizenship under the scheme, adding that all requests were being given "the greatest consideration". In 2020, 61,371 people were granted French citizenship, a decline of 20% compared with 2019. [Related reading: Covid -19 lockdown lifting in France: bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas to reopen May 19] *Image courtesy of mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Covid -19 lockdown lifting in France: bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas to reopen May 19

05/05/2021

France’s third Covid-19 lockdown is easing. Children have returned to school across the country and a domestic travel ban has been lifted. Citizens can now travel anywhere in France, which is a huge improvement over the previous restriction that prevented people from going more than 10km (six miles) from their homes. French citizens also no longer need to carry a form giving a valid reason for travelling. However, a night-time curfew remains in force in the country, with restrictions in place from 19:00 to 06:00 nationwide France’s third lockdown, lighter than the previous two, was implemented back in March. Under the French government's plan, more easing will begin on 19 May, when the nationwide curfew will be pushed back to 21:00, cafes and restaurants will be allowed to welcome outdoor diners, and spectators will be allowed to return to sports venues. Along with indoor eating places, France will keep non-essential businesses, shopping centres and leisure facilities closed. The lockdown easing comes as France continues to register around 25,000 new coronavirus infections each day. Fortunately, the number of patients in intensive care units has dropped below 5,600. *Image by Phil Riley from Pixabay

UK to turn NHS health app into Covid-19 vaccine passport

29/04/2021

We recently wrote about how France is the first EU member state to start testing digital COVID-19 travel certificate. Now, the UK has announced that it will use its NHS health app as a vaccine passport going forward. Part of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap for enabling international travel, the vaccine passport will allow vaccinated Britons to enjoy quarantine-free travel to certain countries this summer. The UK Government has set out plans for a "traffic light" system to be used to categorise different destinations. Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said that more details about the vaccine passport will be revealed "in the next couple of weeks", including which countries will be included on the so-called "green list". Britons will be able to travel to these destinations without having to quarantine on their return. However, travellers will still be expected to have a Covid-19 test both when departing the UK and upon their return. Mr Shapps also confirmed that the UK NHS smartphone app will be used to store people’s vaccine information, effectively making it a vaccine passport. Speaking about the possibility of vaccine passports being around for the long term, Christopher Dye, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford, told the UK science and technology select committee: “One reason is that Covid is not going to go away; it is going to be endemic around the world, it is going to keep resurfacing, and I think that, just as we’ve had yellow fever passports for years and years and years, we’re going to have Covid passports too”. *Image courtesy of Jan Vašek from Pixabay

France is first EU member state to start testing digital COVID-19 travel certificate

22/04/2021

France has become the first European country to begin testing a digital Covid-19 travel certificate as part of a Europe-wide scheme which Brussels hopes will allow more freedom of travel within the bloc by the summer. The testing will be conducted through France’s TousAntiCovid app, part of the country’s contact tracing programme, which has been upgraded to allow it to store negative Covid-19 test results on travellers’ mobile phones. The app is being trialled on flights to Corsica and overseas départements from this week. According to a French official, at first, the certificates will only be used for travel, but they “could eventually be adopted for public events such as concerts, festivals and trade fairs,” although not for bars and restaurants. The app has so far been downloaded by nearly 15 million French citizens. The French trial will form one part of a “reinforced, consolidated and standardised” Europe-wide system, the minister for digital transition, Cédric O, said. Talks are already underway with several countries and airlines to ensure early recognition. The European commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders, said last week he expected the EU’s “digital green certificate” to be operational by 21st June. The certificate is an urgent priority for southern European member states whose economies have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. *Image by Pexels from Pixabay

France will allow vaccinated tourists to enter in May

20/04/2021

French President Emanuel Macron has revealed that France could allow vaccinated touriusts, including Americans and Britons, to enter the country in May. Macron said France is in its last stage of finalising the progressive lifting of travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers and people who have tested negative for COVID-19. Restrictions will reportedly be lifted for European Union and third-country citizens, according to SchengenVisaInfo.com. The president said that French ministers are finalising the details for safe restriction-free travel and developing a testing and vaccination certificate to facilitate travel among EU countries. “We will progressively lift the restrictions of the beginning of May, which means that we will organise in the summertime with our professionals in France for French European citizens, but as well for American citizens. So we are working hard to propose a very concrete solution, especially for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated, so with a special pass, I would say,” Macron said. With the establishment of a so-called “vaccine passport”, Macron pointed out that the country would be able to control the virus and maximise the vaccination rates, which would allow restrictions to be lifted progressively. Macron also revealed that he had spoken with the White House about potential plans for lifting some travel restrictions between France and the US, though talks were still in their early stages. *Image courtesy of Phil Riley from Pixabay

Schools in France close as third national lockdown begins

08/04/2021

French schools have closed for at least three weeks under a third national lockdown to fight rising Covid-19 cases. French President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that schools would switch to remote learning from the beginning of this week. Other lockdown measures, introduced in some parts of France earlier this month, including Paris, have also been extended to other areas. From last Saturday, all non-essential shops closed and there is now a ban on travelling more than 10km (6 miles) from home without good reason. Last Wednesday, the country's health ministry reported 59,038 new cases. France has so far reported more than 4.6 million cases of coronavirus and 95,495 Covid-related deaths. In a live televised address, Mr Macron described the situation in France as "delicate". He added that April would be a “crucial” month in the battle against Covid-19. "We will lose control if we do not move now," he said. Mr Macron outlined that the race to vaccinate would continue alongside attempting to control the spread of the virus. He said that while schools would be closing from this week, classes would remain open for the children of key workers. Image: French President Emmanuel Macron, courtesy of Foundations World Economic Forum, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Covid-19: France looking to turn sports arenas into mass vaccination hubs known as ‘vaccinodromes’

25/03/2021

In an effort to ramp up its vaccination drive, France has confirmed it will open at least 35 giant ‘megacentre vaccinodromes’ across the country by April. Health Minister Olivier Véran this week confirmed: “The health service and the army will work to develop a certain number of giant vaccination centres - we might call them ‘vaccinodromes’ or ‘megacentres’, whatever name you want to use.” Mr Véran stated his goal of having “10 million people vaccinated with at least one dose by mid-April”, with the campaign rollout set to speed up next month “because supplies of the vaccine will rise”. France’s total population is c. 67 million. From Marseille to Toulon to Lyon and Paris, work is ongoing to turn some of the nation’s largest sporting arenas, including Paris’s Stade de France, into mass Covid-19 vaccination centres. However, the health minister has said that his long-term goal is to have “one or two megacenters per department”, which equates to “100 to 200” across the entire country. Once opened, the vaccinodromes will aim to give 1,000 to 2,000 vaccines per day. At present, the average number of doses given at vaccination centres is around 500 per week. Image: Stade de France, courtesy of Zakarie Faibis, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Musicians in southern France hold concert for public via open windows

23/03/2021

Musicians in Montauban, a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Occitanie region in southern France, performed a public concert last weekend for the first time in months. But don’t worry, no Covid-19 restrictions were broken because the musicians performed from open windows in the centre of the town. The Fenêtres musicales (Musical windows) event took place on Sunday, March 21. Musicians across the town opened windows in central buildings, and played their instruments for passing members of the public. Hugo Schmitt, saxophonist at the Orchestre de la Cité at Ingres, told FranceInfo: “After a year without any concerts, it’s a real relief. To be able to play in the centre of Montauban, in beautiful apartments next to open windows, especially during this period, which has been hard for us as artists, it’s really a gift.” Around 20 musicians played via open windows for the event, with the “concert” lasting around 90 minutes. A small crowd also gathered to listen to three singers and a pianist lay a rendition of Mozart’s Nocturnes. One of the singers, Eugenie Berrocq, said: “Because we can’t go to theatres, and we can’t do this in a more conventional or traditional way, we have to reinvent ourselves. There are many artists who have done this, and I think it’s a very good idea to do it in this way.” One Montauban  resident said: “We’ve been without culture for a year now, it’s starting to get a bit long. So this kind of initiative is great.” Another said: “It’s nice, it does you good to watch people playing. We’ve missed it a bit.” *Image courtesy of FranceInfo

French government confirms three-stage plan to open restaurants

18/03/2021

The French Government has confirmed a three-step plan to open restaurants, although no firm date has been set for when it will begin. Following a meeting between hospitality representatives and government ministers on March 16, Didier Chenet, president of hospitality union GNI, told news source FranceInfo the date for reopening was dependent on two factors: “The daily number of Covid cases and the number of people vaccinated”. Since the second national lockdown was imposed more than four months ago on October 29, 2020, restaurants and cafes have been closed in France. The government’s initial plan was to reopen such establishment on January 20, 2021, but this was delayed indefinitely as daily Covid-19 cases remained high and health experts feared a spike could occur as a result of Christmas and New Year celebrations. The three-stage plan, Mr Chenet said, would begin with the opening of hotels for breakfast and dinner. Next would be terraces and interiors in cafes and restaurants, including hotel restaurants, with a 50% capacity limit. Finally, “In the third phase establishments would be fully open, with health protocols in place,” he said. Mr Chenet also revealed that each phase would last four weeks.

Germany, France, Italy suspend AstraZeneca Covid vaccine amid blood clot concerns

17/03/2021

Germany, France, Italy and Spain have joined the list of countries to suspend use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. The countries took the decision after reports have arisen of dangerous blood clots in some recipients. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca and European regulators have said there is no evidence the vaccine is to blame. The AstraZeneca shot is one of three vaccines currently in use in Europe. Nevertheless, the blood clot concerns and subsequent cessation of its use represents another setback for the EU’s vaccination drive – which has already been slow off the mark compared to similar campaigns in the United Kingdom and the United States. The EU’s drug regulatory agency has called a meeting for this week to review experts’ findings on the AstraZeneca vaccine and decide how to proceed. All this comes as much of Europe tightens restrictions on schools and businesses as Covid-19 cases surge. In Germany, the decision to halt the use of the Astrazeneca vaccine was taken following advice from the country’s vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute. It called for further investigation after blood clots were found in the brains of seven people who had been vaccinated. In response to the situation, Astrazeneca published a press release offering ‘reassurance on the safety of its COVID-19 vaccine based on clear scientific evidence’.

France working on Covid-19 health pass – Government spokesperson

11/03/2021

France is working on a digital health pass to allow people to resume leisure activities and travel, a French Government spokesperson said on Wednesday. Speaking after a recent cabinet meeting, Gabriel Attal told reporters that the digital health passes would allow people to resume certain leisure activities in France, such as going to museums, restaurants, sports centres and travelling overseas, in the coming months. The idea is also being considered at a European level to facilitate travel between different countries in Europe and possibly beyond. Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron said introducing vaccine passports would be unfair because they would discriminate against certain groups, such as the young, in particular, who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated yet. However, Macron said he is in favor of a “health pass” that would also include whether a person has antibodies from getting COVID-19 or the results of a negative test, and could be used to get access to restaurants or other venues. [Related reading: France eyes easing of COVID-19 restrictions from next month]

France eyes easing of COVID-19 restrictions from next month

04/03/2021

France is gearing up for a possible easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions from mid-April, as vaccines, to date, are proving effective at lowering infection rates. French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that while the nation is still facing hard times, “For the first time in months, the return to more normal living conditions is in sight.” Attal said vaccinated groups (mainly the elderly) are witnessing falling infection rates, which, he said, is a sign that the country’s vaccination program is working and should be sped up. "It is neither a distant nor uncertain horizon - it is an horizon that is getting closer and closer. We hope maybe from mid-April, and we are preparing for it. "The president (Emmanuel Macron) asked us to submit proposals that could allow for a cautious re-opening of the country soon,” he said. Attal added that the goal of vaccinating the most fragile was to reduce hospitalizations and safeguard the nation’s health care system, which is key to easing restrictions. Earlier this week, Health Minister Olivier Veran said France will retain its current measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, including a nighttime curfew, as a bare minimum for the next four to six weeks. Other measures now in force include the closure of bars, restaurants, museums, sports and music venues. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

France eases ban on AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for over-65s

02/03/2021

People in France aged over 65 with existing health problems will be allowed to be given the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, after the French Government reversed its policy. When the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use by European Union regulators, the French Government said it should only be given to eligible people under 65 because data from trials in older age groups was limited. The AstraZeneca vaccine will now be offered to people up to the age of 74. However, the shot has been hit by a slow rollout and a lack of trust. French Health Minister Olivier Veran said Monday: "Anybody aged 50 or over who is affected by co-morbidities can get the AstraZeneca vaccine, including those between 65 and 74." The announcement has the potential to affect more than two million people. British health authorities released new data on Monday that showed the AstraZeneca vaccine reduced hospitalization from COVID-19 by more than 80%. The vaccine is widely used in the UK but has missed delivery targets in the EU. People aged 75 and over would continue to get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines only, Veran said. Meanwhile, Germany still hasn’t cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for over 65s. This has led to fewer people stepping up for the shot and several doses being wasted. Image courtesy of Marco Verch on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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