France urges public to get coronavirus tests

Director general of health Jerome Salomon at press conference on coronavirus testing
Dr. Jérôme Salomon reminded the public in France of the importance of testing for coronavirus SARS CoV-2

The director general of health in France has reiterated the importance of getting tested for Covid-19 “in case of any doubt”, and presented a new online tool to help the public find their nearest testing lab.

In a press conference last night (Tuesday May 19) Dr. Jérôme Salomon reminded the public of the government’s “ambitious” message on the importance of mass testing, to allow new cases to be identified as quickly as possible, and their contacts to be traced.

Dr. Salomon said: “We must break the chain of transmission.”

He reminded people of the possible symptoms of Covid-19 - including headache, a sore throat, loss of sense of smell or taste, breathing difficulties, frostbite-like feelings on the fingers - and said that the public should be alert to any signs, and get a test quickly, if necessary.

He said: “In case of any doubt, you must consult your GP to have them prescribe you a test. Once the test is prescribed, take it to a [testing] centre immediately, and then isolate yourself.”

Dr. Salomon also presented a new online tool on government health website Sante.fr, which allows users to find the closest testing centre near them.

The website now allows you to type in your area or post code, or automatically finds your location, and then presents a map of a list of testing centres nearby.

He said: “There are around 3,000 [labs] in France, available across the country.”

The Sante.fr website allows you to find the closest testing lab to you (Photo: Sante.fr / Screenshot)

The tests are nasal and carried out using cotton swabs, and only take a few minutes. They are PCR tests (polymerase chain reaction) as opposed to blood tests. Results should be available within 24 hours of the test, Dr. Salomon said.

PCR tests check if someone has the virus at the time of the test. In contrast, blood tests must be done later, and can only check if someone has blood antibodies against the virus and has therefore been exposed to it some time previously.

Read more: Key questions as France aims for 700,000 Covid tests

Read more: Thousands seek antibody blood tests in France

 

Contact tracing

Dr. Salomon explained: “If your test is positive, you will be contacted the next day by l’Assurance Maladie, to identify your contacts. They will need to be tested themselves, immediately - and without a prescription, if they are living with an ill person - and within the next seven days for anyone who has had contact with the person.”

For those living in the same household as an ill person, even if testing negative for the virus themselves, they must still place themselves in self-isolation for 14 days, to avoid the possibility of spreading it to others.

Authorities are aiming to contact and trace as many people as possible who may have come into contact with an infected person, so they can “follow the evolution of the virus as much as possible”.

Read more: Covid contact tracing brigades in France: What we know

Dr. Salomon said: “The risk of the epidemic coming back, and the speed at which it spreads, are only linked to one thing: us. We have the power to take control of the epidemic. We need to get ourselves tested, and seek medical care.

Even though deconfinement is good news for all of us, and gives us back some freedom, we must still continue to be vigilant.”

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