In an interview that was broadcast on Facebook, Véran said only pharmacies would be allowed to sell them, explaining it was still important that a health professional explained how to use the home-testing kits.
The new tests still involve a nasal swab, but are quicker and less unpleasant than the ones carried out by healthcare staff – the cotton bud does not go in to the nose so far – and will allow people to easily test themselves for Covid-19 at home.
However, if the home test shows a positive result, people will still need to have a PCR test to confirm this.
This is because of the PCR test’s higher sensitivity, but also for isolation and contact-tracing purposes, and so that any variants can be identified.
The autotests or, literally, ‘self-tests’ were approved on March 16th by the French national health authority HAS and it was expected they would go on sale that same week.
Self-tests are already in use in the UK, Austria, Germany and Portugal, but France has been hesitant, keen to ensure they were sufficiently accurate before rolling them out.
HAS said that initial data showed that the self-tests were 80-95 percent accurate for people with symptoms.
This compares with a 98 percent accuracy level for laboratory PCR tests. However, PCR tests take 48 hours to give a result, far longer than the DIY test’s 30 minutes.
However, hopes they would also be on sale in supermarkets to increase accessibility were dashed.
In the interview, Véran also said that France had not yet reached the peak of the epidemic.
With current measures, he expected France to reach the peak – the point at which the number of cases starts to drop – in mid-April, with intensive-care cases peaking two weeks later.
On April 2nd, almost 40,000 new cases were recorded, the highest daily level since last November.