France recently announced that some health care workers who test positive for COVID-19 will be allowed to return to work in a last-ditch effort to fill staffing shortages.

The health ministry said health care workers who are positive for the virus but have little to no symptoms will be allowed to return to work if staffing shortages are severe, The Associated Press reported

The special exemption for health care workers will be rescinded once the staffing situation for hospitals and doctors’ offices improves, according to the alert issued Sunday by the ministry and seen by the AP.

“If the system becomes very strained and 50% of our staff are positive, the less symptomatic will come to work because the patients will still need to be cared for,” Marc Leone, head of anesthesiology at a hospital in France, stated. “But we’re not in that situation yet.”

Those who go back to work with COVID-19 are told not to care for unvaccinated patients or patients at higher risk for the virus, if possible. 

COVID-19–positive health care workers also won’t be allowed to take their mask off around anyone and have been instructed to have limited interactions with others as much as possible, the ministry stated, according to the AP. 

The guidance is expected to start this week as omicron has caused a sharp increase in cases in France. 

Anyone who does not work in health care still needs to quarantine for five days if they catch the virus while they are fully vaccinated, and seven days if the person is unvaccinated. 

The new guidance comes as French President Emmanuel Macron said the unvaccinated were “irresponsible” and that “irresponsible people are no longer citizens.”


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