Hundreds of immigrants in France working on the coronavirus frontline have had their service to the country recognised with fast-track citizenship.

The interior ministry invited people who helped with efforts against COVID-19, such as healthcare professionals, cleaners, childcare and shop workers, to apply for sped-up neutralisation.

“Foreign workers gave their time and swung into action for all of us during the COVID crisis,” said Marlène Schiappa, France’s junior minister for citizenship.

“It is now up to the Republic to take a step toward them.”

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More than 700 have already been granted citizenship or are in the final stages of receiving it.

Frontline workers around the world have been exposed to Covid-19 at a high rate with many dying from the disease including doctors and nurses. France is in the top 10 countries worst hit by coronavirus infections, with more than 2.5 million confirmed cases and close to 62,000 deaths.

The expediated citizenship initiative was first announced in September. Seventy-four people have already been granted a French passport and another 693 are in the final stages. A total of 2,890 people have applied so far.

Normally a successful applicant must have been resident in France for five years with a stable income and demonstrated integration into French society.

But the government has said frontline Covid workers must only live in France for two years to be eligible for citizenship in recognition of their “great services rendered”.