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HEALTH

New 30-minute Covid tests ‘available soon’ in France, says health minister

Rapid-response Covid-19 tests that give results within 30 minutes will be available in France shortly, the country's health minister announced on Thursday.

New 30-minute Covid tests 'available soon' in France, says health minister
Photo: AFP

Testing has proved a problem for France throughout the pandemic. First, not enough tests were available, then as a mass testing programme was rolled out with huge delays and some people waited up to 10 days for their results.

However health minister Olivier Véran in a press conference on Thursday had some good news to deliver.

Since late August France has been testing more than 1 million people a week, and now 91 percent of people get their results within 48 hours.

The weekly testing numbers now stand at 1.3 million, through a combination of walk-in or drive-in centres and appointment-only testing laboratories.

And Véran said this could improve further in the weeks to come with the introduction of a new antigen test.

 

The antigen test, partly developed in France in partnership with the World Health Organisation, is a nasal swab test that can deliver results as you wait – between 10 and 15 minutes – rather than having to be sent to a laboratory.

The tests are slightly less accurate than the PCR nasal swab that is used at present, but can be useful in situations of mass testing where a quick turnaround is needed.

Véran said that France had a pending order of 5 million tests and they will be widely available “in the coming weeks” but had already started to be used in some areas.

He said they were not intended to replace the PCR tests, but could be used alongside them in certain situations, for example when testing new arrivals at the airport.

In an attempt to reduce the waiting time for results, France has issued guidelines on who should be tested, saying that healthcare workers, people with symptoms, contact cases and those in vulnerable groups should take priority.

People do not need a prescription to get a test, but several large cities including Paris have introduced 'priority' walk-in centres, where people who not fall into the priority groups can be turned away.

READ ALSO Where and how to get a Covid-19 test in France

The French government has also announced a relaunch of its StopCovid tracing app, which has been downloaded by only a tiny percentage of the population.

Emmanuel Macron, in his live TV broadcast on Wednesday night, urged people to download the new version.

He did not – contrary to the claims of British Health Secretary Matt Hancock – praise the UK's Covid-19 testing programme, but said that many more people in the UK and Germany had downloaded their country's respective contact tracing app.

 

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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