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

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
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.

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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