French supermarket boss calls for sale of home Covid tests

In France, at-home Covid-19 tests are not currently allowed, unlike in Austria, Germany, and the UK

9 March 2021
By Hannah Thompson

The head of a major French supermarket group has called for at-home Covid-19 tests to be sold in big supermarkets - just as they are in Germany.

It comes as health authority la Haute Autorité de santé (HAS) debates whether - and how - to allow such kits this week.

Dominique Schelcher, president of French hypermarket and supermarket group Système U, said it was “common sense” that rapid antigen at-home tests for Covid-19 should be available to buy in supermarkets.

Rapid antigen tests can usually return results within 15 minutes, and are done using a swab of the nose. Just as PCR tests, they detect whether the person tested has Covid at the time of the test.

They are 98.2% sensitive, compared to the 100% sensitivity of PCR tests (according to this private Covid test clinic).

On Twitter, Mr Schelcher wrote that the move would be “common sense at a time when the move could become commonplace". 

The HAS is set to meet to debate the issue this week, reported newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

Cédric Carbonneil, head of professional work at the HAS, said: “Yes, France will do it. The question is how and with what tests.”

Retail giant Système U has around 800 independent hypermarkets and supermarkets across France, under the brands Hyper U, Super U, Marché U and Utile.

 

Test sales soar in Germany

In Germany, the sale of at-home testing kits is on the rise.

Stocks of the tests at supermarket groups Lidl and Aldi sold out within hours of going on sale last weekend. Lidl is selling five kits for €22, while Aldi is selling five “made in Germany” kits for €25.

Both groups have said they are working to make more tests available as soon as possible. 

German chemist shops Dm and Rossmann have also said that they will sell self-testing, at-home kits soon.

The aim of offering at-home tests is to increase freedom for the public at a time when restrictions still remain in place, and Germany has said that it is counting on the massive use of tests to help in its deconfinement process.

From this week, all Germans have had the right to a free antigen test per week, carried out in pharmacies or in test centres.

Yet, experts say that antigen kits are less trustworthy than PCR tests, and that people should still maintain protective hygiene measures against Covid even if they get a negative test result.

A decision on whether to allow at-home tests in France is expected this week or early next.

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