Sunday, February 28

Will the French all be able to get tested before the holidays?

An antigenic testing center at Aix-Marseille airport, November 06, 2020. – PHILIPPE MAGONI / SIPA

  • As the Christmas holidays approach, the question of taking a Covid-19 test before returning to their family arises more than ever for the French.
  • How do laboratories, doctors and pharmacies organize themselves to meet this demand? What advice before getting tested?
  • “A negative antigen test does not mean that you have to go to party,” warns Gilles Bonnefond, president of a union of pharmacists.

PCR test, antigen test or… no test at all? The end of year holidays are approaching, a privileged period for reuniting with family. But this year, the coronavirus epidemic will hover over Christmas Eve.

“It will not be a Christmas vacation like the others,” warned Emmanuel Macron in his sixth speech on October 24. For some, this return to the family will go through a screening test, as some recommend. How to organize if the demand is massive? 20 Minutes answers you.

Is it possible to test all of France before Christmas?

“No, for 68 million French people it is not possible”, explains Gilles Bonnefond, president of the Union of trade unions of dispensing pharmacists (USPO). “What we call the mass testing, it is done in some places
like in Liverpool (UK). But at the level of a country it is almost impossible because we have to do it within a very short timeframe, ”he explains. “I don’t think there is a big demand,” said Sylvie Behillil, deputy head of the National Reference Center for Respiratory Infections Viruses at the Pasteur Institute. “Everyone will do as they want, but some people will prefer to adapt their behavior and avoid being with family. “

Jacques Izopet, head of the virology laboratory at the University Hospital of Purpan, is not in favor of testing people without symptoms. “If everyone is tested, there will inevitably be a crowd and problems accessing tests, which is not wanted,” points out the specialist, who however encourages symptomatic people to be tested.

Sick or not, the feasibility of testing will in any case be limited by the country’s screening capacity. The week of October 26, in the middle of the second wave, France increased its testing capacity to 2.2 million per week, the newspaper recalls The echoes.

Antigen test or PCR… How to choose?

Antigenic tests, carried out like PCR by nasopharyngeal swab, can be carried out by pharmacists, doctors or nurses. According to the latest recommendations of the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS), they are however reserved for people with symptoms, contact cases and clusters. Although some pharmacists offer them, they are not recommended for asymptomatic people. In question ? The lack of scientific data to confirm their effectiveness.

Another pitfall for the holidays: these tests would have a reliability of 65 to 80%. “A negative antigen test does not mean that you have to go to party”, warns Gilles Bonnefond. “Even if the test is negative, we all know that we must forget the hugs and keep the mask on. We ventilate the rooms before the meal, we ventilate afterwards, ”he advises.

The other possibility, then, is to go for a PCR test in the laboratory, with a known result the same day or the day after the test. To do this screening, which is also done with a swab in the nose, the prescription is no longer mandatory.

When to take the test before going home?

For the PCR test as for the antigen test, it is recommended to do a test as soon as possible and then seven days later, if you live in the same household as an infected patient. If you are in contact with someone outside your home, the test should be done seven days after exposure. But, in either case, the test gives a result at time T. “The problem with that is that if my test is negative today, nothing tells me that in three days I will will not be positive, ”warns Sylvie Behillil.

How much does it cost ?

It doesn’t cost the patient anything. PCR tests and antigenic tests are covered by Health Insurance.

What is planned to cope with an influx of demands?

In the laboratories, we have been organized since the start of the epidemic. If no particular device is planned for the end of the year, the establishments are equipped. “We are ready: since the peak of October, when we had to deal with a massive influx, we have adapted to demand”, declares Michel Sala, medical director of the Cerballiance network, which has 450 laboratories throughout France. . If, today, it is running a little empty, “the structure is still there, ready to be loaded if necessary. There is much less pressure on the reagents, we have recruited staff and we have the possibility of working 24 hours a day, ”he adds.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister also announced that massive screening campaigns would be held in three regions of France, “perhaps even before” the end of the year celebrations. They will take place “perhaps in the North, perhaps in Normandy, perhaps in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region”, evaded Jean Castex before making announcements on Thursday. Proof that tests are at the heart of government thinking against the epidemic.

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