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Under strain, France allows some health care workers to keep working if positive for COVID-19

LE PECQ, France (AP) – France is allowing health care workers who are infected with the coronavirus but have few or no symptoms to treat patients instead of self-isolating, according to staff in hospitals and other facilities. There is an extraordinary stopgap measure aimed at mitigating the shortfall. Causing an unprecedented explosion in cases.

The special relaxation of France’s quarantine rules for hospitals, elderly care homes, doctors’ offices and other essential health services testifies to the increasing strain on the French medical system by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Read more: France presses to go without vaccination as it breaks its COVID-19 case record again

It’s a calculated risk, coupled with the possibility that health care workers with COVID-19 could infect coworkers and patients, which the government says is needed to keep essential services running.

For those not covered by the special exemption, outside the health sector, France’s quarantine rules require at least five days of self-isolation for fully vaccinated people who test positive. For the unaffiliated, self-isolation is at least seven days.

Governments and industries have warned that the isolation rules are creating staff shortages in many sectors as the Omicron variant causes infections in many countries. In some places, including in France, the quarantine has been shortened to bring workers back to their posts.

But in Europe, France now appears to be alone, opening up the possibility of health care workers still working while they are infected.

There are increasing indications that the variant causes less-severe disease. But the flood of infections is still sending increasing numbers of people to hospitals, putting those institutions under pressure, especially when medical workers are also absent.

French hospital officials said the new flexibility from self-isolation would help them plug the staffing hole when it opens.

“If the system becomes too stressful and 50% of our staff is positive, there will be less symptomatic work because patients will still need care,” said Dr Mark Lyons, chief of anesthesiology at North Hospital. Southern city of Marseille.

“But we are not in that position right now,” he said.

The new rules were detailed in a health ministry alert message addressed to hospitals, care facilities and health officials on Sunday and seen by The Associated Press. The changes are being rolled out this week.

The ministry’s warning said the flood of virus infections in France poses “a great risk of disruption in the offering of care”. It described the measure as “extraordinary and temporary” and said it would be lifted when the system is not so saturated with virus cases.

The exemption opens up the possibility for doctors, hospital workers and those working with disabilities and other vulnerable people to remain at work despite testing positive, on condition that they are fully vaccinated and do not cough and sneeze Huh.

In the Paris region, hospitals said the measure could be implemented as a last resort if there is an urgent need for infected workers to help keep services open and if they volunteer to work.

“If they are tired, they have a sore throat and prefer to stay at home, no one will force them to work with COVID,” said Romain Eskenazi, communications director for two hospitals in the northern suburbs of the French capital. “

Professor Rémy Salomon, chairman of a commission for the Paris Hospitals Authority, said that while staff absenteeism “is a major problem,” allowing infected staff to work “is extremely difficult to enforce.”

“Health workers say to themselves, ‘I’m afraid of transmitting the virus to patients,'” he told broadcaster France Info.

The health ministry directive states that where possible, infected workers should not come into contact with unvaccinated patients or those who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

The ministry said they should limit their interactions with colleagues as much as possible and not participate in shared activities where face masks are removed, such as breaks for food and drinks.

With the most daily virus cases confirmed in Europe, France is in an increasingly challenging situation.

France’s average daily case load has more than doubled in a week, and the country reported a record 271,686 daily virus cases on Tuesday, as the Omicron version burdens hospital staff and overwhelms health care, transport, schools and hospitals. Threatens to disrupt other services.

More than 20,000 people are hospitalized with the virus in France, a number that has been rising steadily for weeks but not as fast as the infection rate.

More than 72% of France’s ICU beds are full of COVID-19 patients, and the once famous health care system is again showing signs of stress. Most virus patients in ICUs are not vaccinated, although 77 percent of the population has received at least two doses.

Of the world’s highest recorded deaths, more than 124,000 people have died from the virus in France.

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