France has hugely expanded its testing programme since the start of the epidemic, when it came in for heavy criticism for a shortage of tests.
In the week before Christmas, three million tests were carried out in a single week and Prime Minister Jean Castex says that France is now the country with the widest testing programme in Europe.
Broadly, there are four paths to testing – through a prescription from your doctor, through the track and trace programme, a walk-in centre or getting an antigen test at a pharmacy.
Testing has now been greatly increased in France. Photo: AFP
If you have symptoms and are worried about your health, your first port of call should be your regular doctor.
Don't go to the surgery, call or set up a téléconsultation (online consultation) to avoid infecting others.
The doctor will then give you a prescription for a test and information about testing labs in your area. You will need to make an appointment for a test at the laboratory.
If you are just visiting France or are not yet registered with a doctor this is not a problem – you can simply find a médécine géneraliste in your area and arrange an appointment, French GPs do not require you to be registered with their practice.
You can find details of local doctors online, or download the app Doctolib which as well as searching for the nearest médécine géneraliste to you also lists the languages spoken by the doctor, so you can find an English-speaking medic if necessary.
While you are waiting for your appointment and test you should stay indoors as much as possible and wear a mask whenever you go out.
If your test is positive you will be contacted either by your doctor or by an Assurance Maladie employee who will ask for a list of everyone you have been in contact with recently.
Test and trace
If you have been in contact with someone who tests positive for the virus you will be contacted and invited to take a test. If you are called by a contact tracer then you do not need a prescription for the test, but will still need to make an appointment at your local testing facility.
If you have downloaded the TousAntiCovid app you may receive an alert saying that you have been in contact with an infected person. The app will send you a QR code which you can use when booking an appointment with your nearest testing facility.
While waiting for the test, you should self-isolate and wear a mask whenever you go out.
A drive-through testing centre in Plabennac, Brittany. Photo: AFP
Walk-in test centres
As well as the formal routes to testing outlined above, there are also a large number of walk-in testing centres.
Some of these are pop-up walk-in or drive-in sites, wile others are based at medical centres now offering tests on a walk-in basis.
Some walk-in sites only offer tests to people with symptoms, while others test anyone.
Walk-in centre sites are listed by local authorities for the area, or on the regional health authority (ARS) websites.
All the above routes give you a PCR test – the nasal swab that is sent to a lab for analysis and the results sent to you later (usually within 48 hours), however many pharmacies are also offering antigen tests.
These are also antigen nasal swabs, for which the results are given on the spot and usually take 15 minutes.
Most pharmacies offer these on a walk-in basis, but some ask people to make appointments.
If you are having a test for travel reasons check the rules of the country you are going to, as not all destinations accept antigen tests.
For ease of booking, you can use the Doctolib app, which will show a list of testing centres in your area and give you the option of booking a test there. Just pay attention to the conditions that each centre lists though – some do not do testing for travel purposes.
Testing is free to anyone registered in the French medical system.
If you do not have a carte vitale you can still get a test, but you will have to pay for it. The PCR test is usually €54 while the antigen test is €33. You may be able to claim these costs back on travel insurance, depending on your policy.