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”.
Vente #Autotest Covid en grande surface : @JeanCASTEX a pris une décision juste et utile. Nos équipes se montreront à la hauteur des enjeux, aux côtés des pharmaciens d’officine. https://t.co/ltJeDHpOQm vendra les autotests à prix coutant. #TousMobilises
— Michel-Edouard Leclerc (@Leclerc_MEL) December 28, 2021
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.
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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.