The Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) said the quick self-tests, authorised in France for over-15s in March and sold in pharmacies, had showed “encouraging results among children”, in an opinion published on Monday.
The tests, known as autotests in France, are rapid antigen tests, but simpler to use.
While the PCR test and regular antigen test that pharmacies and testing centres offer require inserting a long nasal swab all the way up the nose, the self-test swabs are shorter and don’t need to be inserted so far into the nasal passage.
In March, HAS said the tests should only be used by people aged over 15 to due to a lack of evidence of benefits among children.
But new findings led to the national health body revising that advice, saying the tests were “relevant to crack down on transmission chains, particularly in schools.”
It recommended scrapping the current age limit and roll out “large-scale testing” with the self-tests in all infant, primary and secondary schools in addition to universities. There is already widespread testing in schools with saliva tests also used for younger pupils.
France on Monday reopened primary schools after the Easter holiday period, which the government rescheduled in an attempt to curb the country’s still high Covid rates. Secondary schools and high schools (collèges and lycées) have one more week of distance learning before returning to class on May 3rd.
Keeping schools open has been outlined as a main goal for President Emmanuel Macron’s government, and tracing spread in its educational establishments will be key in order to maintain that goal whilst avoiding a new flare-up in Covid cases.
The government last week confirmed plans to begin reopening non-essential shops and cultural sites “from mid-May” and ease some Covid restrictions such as the current 10 km rule limiting non-essential travel.
France’s weekly average of daily Covid cases dropped down below 30,000 on Monday, continuing a descent that began early in April when the lockdown measures started having an effect.
Le nombre de cas détectés continue de décroître d’environ 11% par semaine. On passe sous les 30 000 cas quotidiens en moyenne sur la dernière semaine. pic.twitter.com/HNoaxBRjVT
— GRZ (@GuillaumeRozier) April 26, 2021
But hospitals remained strained, with the number of intensive care unit patients exceeding 6,000 on a national level on Monday, the highest number registered since the first wave of the virus last spring.
In total some 14.1 million people had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by Sunday, according to the latest numbers, which meant 21.05 percent of the population had received at least one dose.
The French government aims for 20 million total doses by mid-May and 30 million by mid-June.