An executive order, published on Tuesday 15 September 2020, restricts the automatic recognition of Covid-19 as an occupational illness only to those healthcare workers who have needed oxygen supply to treat an infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The French government had announced at the end of March 2020 that all staff working in health establishments would benefit from an automatic recognition of Covid-19 as an occupational illness. The automatic recognition allows 100 % coverage of medical costs, compensation in the event of after-effects and the payment of an annuity to relatives in the event of death. A draft order on 30 June 2020 also included simplified procedures for the rest of workers, especially those on the frontlines during the pandemic. But the order published in September is not inclusive of all workers, even in the healthcare sector.
Trade unions have expressed their strong dissent with the new order. CFDT, FO, CFE-CGC and UNSA, demand that Covid-19 will be recognised as an occupational illness for workers from security personnel to commercial employees, including service employees and funeral organisers. CGT pointed out that the order leaves all non-healthcare workers outside the automatic recognition, and in a difficult position of having to prove to a commission of experts that they contracted the illness at work.
CFDT and FO, the health personnel federation, said that the order is too restrictive in its limitation to workers who received oxygen supply. This is because it ignores the other widely observed manifestations of the Covid-19 illness, such as extreme fatigue, persistent cough, and inflammation in the lungs, cardiovascular and neurological systems. Due to this “long-Covid”, the body can take a long time to recover.
New studies in Austria and France indicate that two-thirds of hospitalised Covid-19 patients experience persistent pulmonary symptoms weeks after hospital discharge. A group of 39 UK doctors have called surveillance of prolonged symptoms that are having substantial effects on some people who have been ill with Covid-19.
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