What you need to know about France’s new 15-minute Covid tests

The new quick-result antigen tests have now been officially authorised for use in the wider community in France, here is how and where you can access them.

What you need to know about France's new 15-minute Covid tests
The process is a nasal swab similar to the PCR test. Photo: AFP

Until now, the 15-minute antigenic tests, or tests rapides antigéniques (TRA) were only used for collective testing, such as in airports.

But decree published in the Journal Officiel has now extended the use of antigen tests to individual testing.


What exactly are these antigenic tests?

Antigen tests are nasal swabs like the PCR test, but the results are delivered on the spot and take between 15 and 30 minutes. PCR tests must be analysed in a lab and results usually take between 24 and 48 hours to get back.

The antigen test is most reliable in case of a positive testing. However, if the test is negative there is a slight chance that the test misses detecting an infection. This is why people at risk should do a PCR test to double-check.

According to the advice published by the HAS (Haute Autorité de Santé) on October 8th, antigen tests are efficient on symptomatic patients up to four days after the symptoms appear. After that point, they consider the PCR test to be the only reliable.

This is what publication of the decree means for people in France.

Who can access an antigen test?  

  • Asymptomatic people, excluding contact cases or people who were detected as part of a cluster who are still advised to get the PCR test
  • Symptomatic who are not in a risk group (such as over 60s or those with a chronic illness) if the test is made less than four days after the first symptoms. People in risk groups and those who have gone more than four days since their first symptoms are advised to get PCR tests.

Who can test people?

You will soon be able to find the antigen tests in pharmacies and at your doctor’s.

Professionals who can test people can be nurses, pharmacists, doctors, dental surgeons, midwives, and other types of professionals listed here

If in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacists for advice, but the antigen tests can provide a quick alternative, especially for people who need a test for work or travel-related reasons.

For a full guide to how the testing system in France works, click here.

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New Covid wave in autumn ‘virtually certain’ say French experts

The head of the government's new health advisory body says that a surge of Covid cases when the French head back to work after the summer break is virtually certain.

New Covid wave in autumn 'virtually certain' say French experts

Immunologist Brigitte Autran, president of new government health advisory body the Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires (Committee to monitor and anticipate health risks) which has replaced the Conseil scientifique, told Le Parisien that “the Covid epidemic is not behind us” and said that the French would have to get used to “living with” the virus.

The Covidtracker website currently shows that the virus is in decline across France, with the R-rate currently at 0.7 – any figure lower than one indicates that the number of infections is falling.

Autran, whose appointment as head of the new body was confirmed on Wednesday, said that the most likely scenario was for a “new epidemic peak in the autumn”, when people return to work after the summer holidays.

“Will it be due to a new variant or the return of cold weather?” she said. “We are not soothsayers, but it is almost certain that there will be a wave.”

“Today, we must go towards living with it,” she added, reintroducing the French to an expression previously used by President Emmanuel Macron and several ministers.

“This does not mean accepting the deaths or the severity of the disease,” she went on, pointing to the fact that health authorities in France still have “levers to activate” to fight the virus. 

Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent (79.6 percent) of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against the virus, she said that, “unfortunately there are still too many people who have not been vaccinated or revaccinated.”

And she said the new body would work with the government to improve the public’s access to drugs, such as Paxlovid, and vaccines.

Vaccination is still open to anyone who has not yet had their shots, while a second booster shot is on offer to certain groups including over 60s, pregnant women, those with health conditions or people who are in close contact with vulnerable people.

EXPLAINED Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster shot in France?

The French government in August voted to end to State of Emergency that allowed it to impose measures like travel bans and lockdowns, although further restrictions could be put in place if cases rise again and parliament agrees.