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French health officials are to open 20 new Covid-19 testing centres in the Paris region after demand for tests soared at la rentrée, last week’s grand return to work and classes following the long school holidays.
The authorities said testing capacity in and around the French capital had risen more than fourfold from 45,000 to 200,000 a week and 1 million people were being tested nationally every week – about 140,000 a day – but there were still queues and delays.
The new diagnostic centres will be open to all those wishing to be tested, but certain hours will be reserved for patients considered a priority and those with Covid-19 symptoms or at risk of contamination.
The health minister, Olivier Véran, has blamed the delays on a surge in demand from people returning from holidays and said the government was hoping to improve access to tests “in the next few weeks”.
“There is a delay in getting access to laboratories to get tested and queues in Paris and elsewhere; right now it’s taking an average of 3.5 days to get tested,” Véran told BFM-TV.
“But the French can be assured: in two, at the latest three, weeks, the access to tests will be easier,” the minister added. He claimed the results were being delivered in 36 hours for 80% of Covid-19 tests.
Anyone in France wishing to find out if they have Covid-19 – whether they have symptoms, or are at risk, or not – can get tested for free, but the health authorities have asked those without symptoms, a contact with the virus or a particular risk to hold off getting tested to avoid overloading the system.
“We cannot really increase the number of tests – in any case not massively, so we have to work on prioritising,” Véran told France Inter radio.
“A person who has symptoms, who is a contact case, has to be tested urgently. It’s out of the question that they are turned away from a laboratory … because there’s no availability. We have to work on that, because that’s not normal,” he added.
“However, someone who is wondering (if they have Covid-19), who has no symptoms and who has just come back from holiday, asking them to wait three, four, five days to give priority to those who are sick isn’t shocking.”
Véran also announced new “rapid result” tests would be available in the Paris region from Wednesday.
“Like the current tests these antigenic tests require a nasal sample… but the results can be got much quicker, in 15-20 minutes, which will be good in places like airports and hospital receptions,” Véran said.
France is operating two types of Covid-19 testing. Since 25 July, all French people can have a nasal test whether they have Covid-19 symptoms or not and without a doctor’s prescription. The €54 cost of the test, which can be carried out by laboratories and testing centres but also by qualified nurses, health workers, medical students and first responders, is reimbursed by the country’s social security system.
Blood tests to detect antibodies, costing €12.15 or €9.45 for a rapid test, are reimbursed if the patient has a prescription for the test.
Tests can be carried out at home if a GP deems it necessary.
Véran told French journalists that studies were ongoing to determine the efficacy of new saliva tests.
Asked about the reliability of the saliva tests, he replied: “I am waiting for the results of the experiments being carried out imminently. In the next few days I should have information to allow me to say yes or no.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: France to open 20 new Covid-19 testing centres in Paris region | Coronavirus outbreak