The country's Director general of Health Jérôme Salomon on Tuesday evening laid out the next stage in France's strategy – contact testing and serological testing.
There are two types of testing used in the battle against coronavirus – the viral test which shows if a person is currently infected and the serological blood test which detects antibodies and shows if a person has previously been exposed to the virus.
Salomon announced that France will, from next week, begin rolling out serological tests in order to track the spread of the epidemic and determine who has had it, beginning with healthcare workers.
France's Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon. Photo: AFP
A shortage of testing capacity in France at the start of the outbreak meant that only people in high risk groups or those in hospital were tested – those who had milder symptoms and stayed at home are likely to have never appeared in official statistics.
Salomon also laid out the process for viral tests for people who may have the illness now or have been in contact with someone who has.
This is a three-step process.
1. Doctor – Anyone who believes they have symptoms should immediately contact their regular doctor who will prescribe a test if necessary. Testing will be done with a prescription only and the cost is reimbursed 100 percent under French state health insurance.
Salomon laid out an expanded list of symptoms which could be indicators of Covid-19.
- Loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Aching muscles or joints
- Digestive problems
- Difficulty breathing
If you have any of the symptoms you should wear a mask around other people while you wait for your test.
2. Testing – After a consultation with a doctor, which can be over the phone or an online consultation, a suspected Covid-19 case will be immediately referred to their nearest testing facility for a viral test, which is taken by a swab inserted into the nose.
There are 3,000 testing facilities throughout France and their details can be found online here.
The person will receive their test results within 24 hours and should stay at home and isolate themselves while waiting.
3. Contacts – People who test positive will then be contacted within 24 hours of the test result by either their doctor or an Assurance Maladie employee who will ask for a list of everyone they have had contact with in recent days including family members, friends, work colleagues.
Salomon stressed that this information would be kept confidential but it was extremely important that people give full details so all contacts can be tested.
All people on the contact list will then be contacted and asked to take a Covid-19 test at their nearest testing facility, ideally seven days after their last contact with the infected person. People who have been notified in this way do not need a prescription for a test.
If you live with a person who has tested positive you will need to self-isolate for 14 days, even if your test is negative, because of the incubation period.
Salomon said: “The risk of a resumption of the epidemic and the speed are only linked to our behaviour.
“To be tested at the slightest doubt is to enable us to effectively identify those in our social circle who are at risk of contracting the virus.”
Ahead of the forthcoming holiday weekend with the public holiday of Ascension on Thursday, he also warned people to continue to respect the rules and the hygiene measures such as washing hands, physical distancing and limiting contact with vulnerable groups.
Those in vulnerable groups – which are people aged over 65 or those with risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, heart conditions, respiratory conditions including asthma or a suppressed immune system – should avoid contact as much as possible with others, work from home if possible, avoid public transport and not receive visits from family or friends.
He added that if people in those groups do have visitors they should avoid physical contact, particularly with children, wear a mask, wash their hands and clean all surfaces that visitors touch after they leave.