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COVID-19 TESTS

Covid self-testing kits to be sold in French supermarkets

French supermarkets have been given the right to sell Covid tests up until January 31st. The government has called on everyone attending a New Year's Eve gathering to get tested beforehand.

French supermarkets will soon stock Covid tests on their shelves.
French supermarkets will soon stock Covid tests on their shelves. The move will likely help with supply problems in pharmacies. (Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP)

French supermarkets will begin stocking self-test Covid kits on their shelves. 

Retailers will be allowed to sell these nasal swab antigen tests up until January 31st, according to a notice published in the Journal Officiel

On Monday evening, the French government appealed for people to get tested before attending New Year’s Eve celebrations. 

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The President of the E. Leclerc supermarket chain described the decision as “just and useful”. 

It is highly unusual for any sites other than pharmacies to sell medical products in France, due to strict regulations that essentially give pharmacies a monopoly. 

While in many countries you can buy headache tablets or paracetamol in a number of places including supermarkets, corner shops and service stations, in France drugs like Ibuprofen can only be bought at a pharmacy.

This is also true for things like cough medicine and cold remedies. Generally speaking, even if you have a minor illness, you need to head to the pharmacy.

There are also restrictions on ownership which mean that pharmacy chains are not allowed, although parapharmacies – which only offer non-prescription medicines – are often part of a chain.

READ MORE Why does France have so many pharmacies?

But many people have been struggling to find self-tests in pharmacies, where the price limit is set at €6. It is unclear whether supermarkets will also have to respect these pricing guidelines. 

Others have complained that the instructions that come with the self-test kit are highly complicated, with one Twitter user saying it was easier to put up a piece of Ikea furniture than complete the test.

The government has stressed that the self-test kits to be sold in supermarkets should be used for asymptomatic people and for personal use only. 

If you are experiencing Covid symptoms, you should still ask for a test at the pharmacy or another testing site

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COVID-19 TESTS

French experts warn cold temperatures could lead to false Covid test results

French health authorities have warned that cold temperatures can render Covid tests unreliable, as a winter cold snap grips much of France.

A health worker sits in a Covid test tent near the Paris opera.
A health worker sits in a Covid test tent near the Paris opera. French health authorities warn that tests taken in cold conditions may be inaccurate. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

Hundreds of thousands of Covid tests are conducted in France every single day. 

Many of them are the rapid-result antigen tests conducted in tents set up in the street, often found just outside pharmacies. 

While getting a test is straightforward enough, results obtained via an antigen test in cold conditions should be taken with a pinch of salt, according to health authorities. 

More than a year ago, the French Health Ministry warned of false positives arising from antigen tests taken outside. 

Inaccurate results can occur when temperatures drop below 2C because cold temperatures can influence the chemical reaction that takes place when the solution mixed with your nasal swab sample is entered onto the small plastic test reader. 

Over the winter period, this means that there is a greater risk of inaccurate Covid test results. In the east of France, temperatures reached -3C on Thursday. 

In an interview with Le Parisien on Thursday, the head of a French pharmacists union, Gilles Bonnefond, said there are two ways to avoid false results. 

“The first is to not store the tests in the cold. The advice is to keep the the temperature between 2C and 30C. If the tests are frozen, it completely degrades the silicon mould,” he said. 

Bonnefond said that while the tests can be carried out in tents where the temperature is lower, they should be moved to a space where it is at least 7C-8C while waiting for results. 

He also warned that self-tests should not be stored in cold temperatures prior to use. 

“Users must keep their tests at an ambient temperature. The worst thing is to leave them in the car where it can be very cold,” he said. 

In France, you are encouraged to take a confirmatory antigen or PCR test if you have tested positive for Covid via a self-test. You can more about that HERE

You are also encouraged to get tested if you have come into contact with someone who has Covid and have not been infected within the past two months. 

You can find a full list of testing sites here

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