WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

Most new cases of monkeypox are currently detected in Western Europe. The World Health Organisation says this is no reason to cancel more than 800 festivals scheduled to take place on the continent this summer.

The World Health Organisation has said monkeypox should not prevent European music festivals from taking place.
The World Health Organisation has said monkeypox should not prevent European music festivals from taking place. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

The World Health Organization said Friday that European summer festivals should not be cancelled due to the monkeypox outbreak but should instead manage the risk of amplifying the virus.

A surge of monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the WHO from 48 countries in total this year.

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events just starting in the northern hemisphere,” Amaia Artazcoz, the WHO’s mass gatherings technical officer, told a webinar entitled “Monkeypox outbreak and mass gatherings: Protecting yourself at festivals and parties”.

The events “may represent a conducive environment for transmission”, she said.

“These gatherings have really close proximity and usually for a prolonged period of time, and also a lot of frequent interactions among people,” Artazcoz explained.

“Nevertheless… we are not recommending postponing or cancelling any of the events in the areas where monkeypox cases have been identified.”

Sarah Tyler, the senior communications consultant on health emergencies at WHO Europe, said there were going to be more than 800 festivals in the region, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.

“Most attendees are highly mobile and sexually active and a number of them will have intimate skin-to-skin contact at or around these events,” she said.

“Some may also have multiple sexual contacts, including new or anonymous partners. Without action, we risk seeing a surge in monkeypox cases in Europe this summer.”

Risk awareness

The UN health agency recommends that countries identify events most likely to be associated with the risk of monkeypox transmission.

The WHO urged festival organisers to raise awareness through effective communication, detect cases early, stop transmission and protect people at risk.

The outbreak in newly-affected countries is primarily among men who have sex with men, and who have reported recent sex with new or multiple partners, according to the WHO.

People with symptoms are advised to avoid attending gatherings, while people in communities among whom monkeypox has been found to occur more frequently than in the general population should exercise particular caution, it says.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, from the global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes at WHO, said: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.

“Stigmatising never helps in a disease outbreak,” she added.

“This is not a gay disease. However, we want people to be aware of what the risks are.”

Member comments

  1. Why would they even consider stopping festivals because of Apepox which affects a tiny minority of the population and is not that long term dangerous anyway?

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‘Medical tourism’ – why France wants to crack down on foreigners using the carte vitale

France's social security minister has announced a raft of new measures aimed at cracking down on benefit fraud, including people using the French health system when they are not entitled to.

'Medical tourism' - why France wants to crack down on foreigners using the carte vitale

Social security minister Gabriel Attal used an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien to announce a range of ‘crackdown’ measures on foreigners accessing French social security provisions – from benefits to pensions to healthcare.

You can find the full breakdown of what he said here, although these all seem to be at the ideas stage, with few concrete details announced.

One aspect of his announcement was a plan to link the carte vitale health card to the French carte d’identité ID card – which would pose a problem for non-French people resident in France, since the French ID card is only available to French citizens.

Attal said: “The issue now is cartes vitale used for illegal medical tourism.”

He added: “I want to move gradually towards merging the carte vitale card and the identity card into a single secure card, as is the case in Belgium, Portugal and Sweden. This is both a simplification measure and an additional guarantee of the individual’s identity and associated rights.”

But is medical tourism actually a problem in France?


The French health system is a reimbursement system – you pay upfront at the doctor, pharmacy, clinic etc and then the state reimburses some or all of the cost of your treatment.

READ ALSO How France’s healthcare system works

This means that it’s not a problem for people not registered in the French system to access treatment in France – you simply pay upfront like everyone else, but the costs would not be reimbursed by the French state.

This is how tourists can access medical care in France if they need it – they either pay the costs themselves or claim them back later through their own travel insurance or health insurance.

READ ALSO How to access non-emergency medical treatment in France

Carte vitale

The way that people get state-funded healthcare is through the carte vitale – this green credit-card sized card proves that you are registered in the French system and therefore entitled to reimbursement on healthcare costs. After you have paid for your treatment/appointment/prescription you hand your carte vitale to the doctor or pharmacist, who swipes it through a special machine.

The reimbursed costs are then paid directly into your bank account, with the percentage of reimbursement automatically calculated based on the type of treatment you had and your personal circumstances (eg if you are pregnant, unemployed or a war veteran).

Most residents also have top-up health insurance, known as a mutuelle, to cover the remainder of the costs.


In most cases, the reimbursement is paid by the French state, but there are some exceptions for foreigners.

People who have retired to France generally have their healthcare costs paid by their home country, if there is a reciprocal agreement in place – for example British pensioners who retire to France usually have their costs paid by the NHS under the S1 scheme. This is also applies to some other groups including students and posted workers.

Foreigners who are working in France and paying social contributions have their healthcare paid for by the French state.

In both cases, foreigners living in France have a carte vitale – the difference is who reimburses the money, but for the patient the process is identical; pay upfront, swipe the carte vitale and wait for the reimbursement to arrive in your bank account.

Anyone who has been legally resident in France for more than three months is entitled to a carte vitale (although the actual process of applying can be quite a long one, often taking up to 12 months).

READ ALSO How to get a carte vitale

Medical tourism

So is there actually an issue with foreigners accessing state reimbursement when they’re not entitled to it, since foreigners legally living in France are perfectly within their rights to register in the French system?

Attal said the problem was: “People coming to France and using someone else’s carte vitale for treatment.”

Over the last five years, 2.3 million cartes vitale have been deactivated because they were “surplus”, according to Attal.

There have also been relatively recent charges to the card to add a photo, making it harder to use someone else’s card, although a proposal to add biometric information such as fingerprints appears to have been abandoned on the grounds of cost (an estimated €250 million) and complexity.

The minister said that the Cour des Comptes (French Audit Office) estimates the total cost of social fraud at between €6 billion and €8 billion a year – but that figure includes all types of social fraud (medical costs, fake sick notes, benefit fraud etc) from both French and non-French people.

On medical fraud – by both French and non-French citizens – he said there was no precise data, but it was believed to cost “several million a year”.

Health tourism

France does, however, have a thriving and completely legal health tourism sector – where foreigners travel to France for treatment in private clinics at their own expense.

A network of private clinics exist and many target foreigners to come to France to get treatment that is either not available in their own country or is cheaper in France.

Mickaël Guignier, the CEO of Medifrance Solution private clinic, told BFMTV that: “Nearly half of our patients come from Africa, a third from Eastern Europe. And around 10 percent come from the UK and Ireland, but for reasons of waiting lists.”

Some patients choose France because of the cost of treatment, with Guignier adding that: “Coronary bypass surgery costs ten times more in the United States than in France. There’s a real market out there.”