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Approved in France on March 16 by the High Authority for Health, self-tests have been available since Monday in pharmacies and should make it possible to complete the screening offer. How do these do-it-yourself tests work? What will be their usefulness in the fight against the epidemic? Response elements.
After saliva tests, it is a new tool added to the government’s panoply to curb the spread of Covid-19. The self-tests are now on sale since Monday April 12 in 6,000 pharmacies in France.
They “will gradually be deployed in thousands of pharmacies throughout the week,” said the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, in an interview with the Journal du dimanche.
These tests are quick and easy to use: it involves taking a nasal swab yourself, but shallower than that of conventional PCR tests known to be very unpleasant. “Then you put the swab in a reagent and then you pour a few drops on what is called a bar of soap. If a line appears, you are negative; if it is two lines, the test is positive. It looks a bit like to a pregnancy test, “explains Jérôme Marty, president of the UFML union (French Union for Free Medicine), joined by France 24.
The result is available in 15 to 20 minutes. If it is positive, it should then be confirmed with a more reliable PCR test.
The French can get a self-test at a capped price of 6 euros – a price that will drop to 5.20 euros from May 15. On the other hand, they are free for home employees working with the elderly or disabled, specifies the Ministry of Health.
According to Jérôme Marty, this tool is “essential” in the fight against Covid-19. “In my opinion, it is as important as vaccination, considers the general practitioner. It is a tool which helps to avoid reviving the viral spread.”
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“The French must seize it”
The main advantage of these homemade tests: their speed. Before a family meal, a cinema or an outing with friends, they could allow you to isolate yourself in case of a positive result. They would be particularly useful for detecting asymptomatic people.
This new tool also has the advantage of reaching populations who are not sufficiently tested, such as people living in rural areas, far from an analysis laboratory.
By generalizing these tests carried out by individuals, France is following in the footsteps of other European countries such as the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom or even Germany, which since early March has authorized the sale. self-test kits in supermarkets.
For the time being, in France, only pharmacies are authorized to sell these medical devices, a decision that would prevent the wide dissemination of this new screening method, according to Jérôme Marty. “Once again, we develop a strategy not according to the interest of the tool but according to the quantity available at a given time T. The authorities explain to us that it is a medical device and that it is complicated. to use. It’s not true. It’s as easy to use as a blood alcohol test. “
The general practitioner pleads for a major awareness campaign because, for this method to become widespread, “the population must take hold of it”. “We must communicate on it, that it is available and cheap. For the moment, none of these three conditions is met.”
Priority to schools
For the government, these self-tests should also be used to prepare for the reopening of schools. “They will be quickly made available in schools. We plan to go up to two tests per week, per student and per teacher,” says Olivier Véran.
Promises that leave the teachers’ unions joined by France 24 skeptical. “We still have the impression of an announcement effect, regrets Sophie Vénétitay of Snes-FSU, the first union in middle and high schools.” There is still a lot left. unanswered questions. Will the students take the test at home or in the school? Who will be present to supervise them? Who will distribute the self-test kits? How will the information be transmitted in the event of a positive test? It remains extremely fuzzy and nebulous. “
Another question mark: will the students and teachers spontaneously carry out these self-tests? Launched in the fall, the deployment of antigenic tests in middle and high schools revealed the complexity of the implementation of this campaign.
For the time being, these self-tests would be offered to primary school teachers as of the resumption, on April 26, and to secondary school teachers and students over 15 years old as of May 3.