When, where and how to get tested for coronavirus in France

The French government wants to make Covid-19 tests more accessible and get more people taking them to prevent a further increase of cases in France. We explain when to get tested, where to get tested, and which type of test to take if necessary. 

16 July 2020
A woman getting a nasal swab test. When, where and how to get tested for coronavirus in FranceResults from PCR tests in France are available within 24 hours by telephone or online.
By Joanna York

What is the difference between a PCR test and a blood test? When do you need to get tested? And how do you do it in France?

We explain. 

What is the difference between PCR tests and blood tests?

PRC tests (polymerase chain reaction tests) take about 10 minutes to complete and involve inserting a cotton bud into the nose or mouth to take a nasal swab or a saliva sample. PRC tests reveal whether the person taking the test is currently infected with the virus. 

Blood tests, or serology tests, involve taking a blood sample to reveal whether or not Covid-19 antibodies are present in the blood. This indicates whether or not someone has previously been infected with the virus but not if they are currently contagious. If antibodies are detected, it may also indicate immunity to Covid-19. 

When should I get tested?

Anyone presenting symptoms such as a fever, cough, breathing difficulties or loss of taste, should get tested using a laboratory test - rather than going into a pharmacy - to limit possible transmission. 

If you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, but you do not have symptoms, current advice is to get a test immediately if you live in the same home as them. Otherwise, wait 14 days following last contact to see if symptoms emerge.

PCR tests are currently available on prescription for people with Covid-19 symptoms. 

They are available without a prescription for anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, those considered at “high risk” of getting the virus, and people living or working in “collective housing” that makes them vulnerable to catching the virus.


Where can I do a test?

PCR tests can be done by a medical professional in a testing centre, which is then analysed in a laboratory. Results from PCR tests in France are available within 24 hours by telephone or online. 

There are two types of blood test available in France. The first, known as tests automatiques or Elisa, are done by medical professionals and analysed in a laboratory, similar to a PCR test. 

The second are “rapid” tests (tests rapides d'orientation diagnostique or TROD) which pharmacies in France have been authorised to carry out since July 11. TRODs test a very small blood sample, taken by pricking a finger, which is then put in contact with a reactor. Results are available within a few minutes.

How much do tests cost? 

While the government has set indicative prices for tests, pharmacies and laboratories are free to set their own prices. 

Suggested prices are €54 for PCR tests, €12.15 for Elisa blood tests and €9.45 for TROD tests.

PCR and TROD tests are covered by social security in France if prescribed by a doctor. Without a prescription, the tests must be paid for independently.

What do I do if I test positive?

Patients who test positive for Covid-19 by a PCR test are contagious. Aftercare must be handled by medical professionals in order to ensure patients follow correct isolation measures and take steps to protect those they come into contact with.

Patients who positive for Covid-19 by TROD blood test are encouraged to confirm the results by undertaking a laboratory test too. If needed, this can be followed up by a PCR test to see whether the patient is currently contagious.

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