Do I have to get tested?
Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms should be tested with PCR tests, which can detect whether a person is infected or not.
PCR tests are used to directly detect the presence of an antigen, rather than the presence of the body's immune response or antibodies.
So anyone with symptoms such as a cough, a high temperature, difficulty breathing or loss of taste or smell must contact their doctor or a doctor on duty immediately.
“If you have symptoms linked to a Covid-19 infection, you must act, do not wait for it to pass, ” French health Minister Olivier Véran urged the French public in a press conference on Thursday.
If contacting your local doctor doesn’t prove successful, call France’s emergency medical services Samu by dialling 15 and you will be referred to another doctor.
Depending on a patient's condition, this healthcare professional will decide whether or not to order a screening test, carried out using a swab in the nose.
This test can be carried out “in a hospital, a city lab, a drive-through service, or at home via a mobile team”, explained Olivier Véran.
The test is fully covered by France’s social security system.
What if I’ve been in close contact with a person who tests positive?
People who have been in close contact with a patient who has tested positive will be contacted through surveys conducted by French health insurance bodies and the Regional Health Agencies (ARS).
They will have to have their temperature taken twice a day and be tested seven days after contact with the person who tested positive for Covid-19.
“Seven days is the right amount of time to find the virus,” Véran said in a press conference on Thursday.
“Anything before that and it may be too early to trace.”
The French government is aware that the number of people who could come into contact with those infected with Covid-19 is potentially significant, with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe estimating that after lockdown a person with the virus could meet anywhere between 20 to 25 people on average.
Who has to continue under lockdown in France?
Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms has to practise self-isolation.
“Your doctor will ask you to stay at home,” warned Olivier Véran.
If symptoms occur and you test positive for Covid-19, you should stay at home until two days after you’ve recovered and there are no lingering symptoms, which as Véran suggested is “an average of eight to ten days”.
If your test comes back negative, “the doctor will reassess the situation”.
People who have come into close contact with a person who has tested positive will have to stay under lockdown “as if they were a person with Covid-19”, even without any symptoms.
That means that they won’t be able to go to their workplace and if they can’t work from home, a temporary leave of absence will be issued.
In all case scenarios, people who’ve been close to Covid-19 patients will be tested on the seventh day after contact with the sick person and even if it comes back negative, they have to remain under solitary confinement for an additional seven days.
Where and how should I self-isolate?
If you’ve tested positive or have come into contact with someone who has, the general rule is that you should self-isolate at home.
But “depending on your situation” the doctor may offer you the option of staying somewhere else such as a hotel which has medical staff at hand, France’s Minister of Health explained.
Anyone who isn’t living alone at home must stay in a separate room to avoid contact with other family members or housemates.
You should air your room regularly, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching objects that can be touched by others, and disinfect surfaces you touch such as doorknobs or mobile phones regularly.
“If you’re staying with your spouse for example, your doctor will advise you to wear a mask at all times,” Véran added.
According to France’s Ministry of Health, patients and those they come into contact with are entitled to 14 masks per week each, fully covered by French health insurance.
It isn’t advisable to receive visits except for carers and domestic workers.
Will I get tested even if I don’t have symptoms?
France’s Health Minister didn’t specify how many tests France is currently intending to carry out on a weekly basis but the figure of 700,000 tests per week was brought up by French PM Edouard Philippe at the National Assembly in late April.
Véran did however say that “France is ready to test on a massive scale” and “at the level of estimated needs” for the whole country.
Symptomatic people and those they’ve come into contact with should therefore be able to be tested without difficulty, but it remains unclear for now how and if people in France with no Covid-19 symptoms will be tested in the weeks to come.
Will my medical records remain private?
France is checking the medical records of Covid-19 patients and the people they may have infected using the AmeliPro platform, part of France's National Health Insurance Fund (CNAM).
The system contains people’s medical history and databases of “diabetics, people with high blood pressure, those with long-term illnesses,” Véran explained.
Doctors and health insurance employees have access to this information but it “is only intended to last for the duration of the epidemic”, he reassured, stressing that the system has “nothing to do with the Stop Covid digital tracking software that’s been under review for several weeks.