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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Covid-19 is officially feminine, say French language guardians

Scientists still don't know many things about the new Covid-19 virus but now one thing is certain - in French, the virus is feminine.

Covid-19 is officially feminine, say French language guardians
The Academie française has spoken. Photo: AFP

Covid-19 is feminine – to be used with the article “la” not “le” – according the official guardian of the French language, which has urged an end to the widespread practice in France of referring to it as masculine.

This is despite the fact that the umbrella term for the virus type – coronavirus – is masculine in French.

“The use of the feminine for Covid-19 would be preferable,” the Academie Francaise said in a directive published on its website under the category “faulty use”.

READ ALSO The 22 French words we've learned during lockdown

“It is perhaps not too late to give this acronym back the gender it should have.”

The academy deplored the use of the masculine “le Covid-19” in the media and general conversation in France, saying the disease had wrongly been attributed the same gender as the germ that causes it: “le” coronavirus.

It explained that Covid was an acronym for coronavirus disease, and that in French, the core word in an acronym is what gives it its gender. In this case, disease, which is a feminine “la maladie” in the language of Moliere.

The World Health Organisation has long referred to COVID-19 as “la”, and in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, government websites and the media use the feminine form.

The “Office quebecois de la langue francaise” also recommends its feminine use, and the Royal Spanish Academy has issued similar guidance, citing the same grammar rationale.

The members of the French academy are mostly elderly men who wear an ornate uniform and a sword and are known as the immortals.

Only last year did the notoriously conservative academy open the door to feminine versions of professions such as doctor and teacher.
 

Member comments

  1. Don’t these “people” realise that a language is a living thing and is always changing and evolving? These so called academics are holding France back internationally but at least the young are trying to change things. This academy is like Canute trying to hold back the tide of change.

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COVID-19

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body has outlined how Covid-19 rules will change on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules will relax in France as the country ends compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes will take effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 will return to normal on February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 will have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that will begin in February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.

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