Record 6million Covid tests taken in France after health pass extended

Test numbers are particularly up (45%) among the 25-40 age group since the health pass became obligatory for many public spaces including restaurants, cafes and some large shopping centres 

20 August 2021
Covid testing centre from Loxamed in Bordeaux, France

A record number of tests were taken in France last week, figures show, with 67.4% of the antigen type Pic: JeanLucIchard / Shutterstock

By Hannah Thompson

Almost 6million Covid tests were taken in France last week, a record for the country, and likely to be a direct result of the health pass extension rules taking effect.

The official figures were published this week (August 19) by statistics bureau la Direction de la recherche, des études, de l’évaluation et des statistiques (Drees).

Overall, test numbers have risen by 40% in a week, after the health pass started being required for entry into public spaces including restaurants, cafes, and some large shopping centres. 

The health pass shows that the holder has been vaccinated, has taken a negative Covid test in the past 72 hours, or has had and recovered from Covid recently and is thus considered immune. Those who have not been vaccinated or had Covid recently must therefore take a test.   

More than two-thirds of tests taken (67.4%) were of the antigen type –  equivalent to around 4million. The rest were PCR, which takes longer for the results to be obtained. This represents a 57% rise in antigen tests in a week.

In its statement, Drees said: “Between August 9-15, 5,706,700 PCR and antigen tests were validated, versus 4,194,900 the week before, a rise of 1,511,700 SARS-CoV-2 tests”.

The week also broke another record; that of one million tests being taken in a single day, on Friday, August 13.

The increase was especially high among people aged 25-40. Test-taking in this age group rose by 45%.

For 16-25s, it increased by 35%, and for 41-65s, by 40%.

Drees said that 98% of test results were delivered in less than 24 hours, despite a computer issue delaying the delivery of QR codes after antigen tests on Saturday, August 14.

Covid tests are currently still free for residents at the point of use. More than 122million tests have been carried out in France since March 1, 2020, and August 15, 2021, figures show.

Tests for residents in France without a prescription will no longer be free from mid-October.

Tourists must already pay for tests, with the price set by state health insurance website ameli.fr to be €25 for an antigen test and €43.89 for PCR (though prices quoted by individual pharmacies and test centres can vary slightly from this). 

Tests to travel to UK from France

A negative Covid-19 test is currently a requirement for anyone entering the UK from abroad, including from France.

The test must be taken in the three calendar days before the day of departure from France and the results must be in English, French or Spanish.

The UK government website states that the test can be either a PCR test or an antigen test.. 

Rapid antigen tests are readily available in many pharmacies around France. You can walk in and book an appointment. 

The UK government states that the tests should meet certain technical standards; however, we have not heard reports of any French pharmacy tests not being acceptable.

The easiest way to find a place to get a Covid-19 test is through the government website sante.fr. Simply type in the department you are in and you will see a list of all laboratories and pharmacies offering tests. 

There is also a map of all the testing sites with the relevant contact details. 

You can also book an appointment through Doctolib.fr without a social security number. You just need to sign up for a free account. You will then need to provide your address, postcode and town. 

Type in ‘test’ to the search bar and then choose the option dépistage COVID-19 test PCR (prélèvement naso-pharyngé) from the dropdown menu to find appointments.

Some airports in France, such as Orly and Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Nice airport, also offer Covid-19 testing services.

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