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French pharmacies to sell home Covid-19 tests from April

Pharmacies in France will be able to sell home Covid-19 tests to those who want to buy them from April 12th, France's Health Minister Olivier Véran said on Friday.

French pharmacies to sell home Covid-19 tests from April
(Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

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.

READ ALSO: How France’s new Covid home-testing kits work

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.

READ ALSO: What changes about life in France in April 2021

In the interview, Véran also said that France had not yet reached the peak of the epidemic.

The rolling seven-day average of daily new confirmed Covid-19 cases. Source: Our World in Data.

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.

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COVID-19

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.

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