France lays out ‘test and trace’ process for suspected coronavirus cases

France's Director General of Health has laid out the latest stage in the country's strategy of testing and tracing anyone who may be infected with Covid-19.

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.

They are;

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • 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.”

Holiday weekend

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. 




Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.