You do not need to have a “particular reason” or a prescription to take a test. Rapid tests cost from €9.45 up to around €15 in some pharmacies.
The blood tests can identify if the tested individual has antibodies in their blood against the coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 (which causes Covid-19). The presence of antibodies suggests that the individual has been infected with the virus previously, within the past two-three weeks.
Antibodies known as IgM are present from the 7th day after infection for the most-severe patients and from two weeks in less-severe cases. Antibodies known as IgG are present after this, for up to 40 days from infection.
It is not known how much, or for how long, antibodies may offer some form of immunity to the virus.
The tests are known as “TROD” in French - meaning “tests rapides d’orientation diagnostiques” or “rapid diagnostic guidance tests”. There are 51 such tests currently authorised by the ministry of health.
This is as opposed to PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, which show if someone has the virus at the time of the test.
The blood test uses a few drops of blood from a pinprick on your finger, and is administered by a pharmacist. It gives results within around 15 minutes.
Until now in France, blood tests for SARS-Cov-2 could only be done in a medical lab or hospital.
But pharmacists called for them to become available in pharmacies, to make them more accessible in the event of a “second wave” of the virus.
They are now to be available “exceptionally” in pharmacies until October 30, according to a new decree on the issue in the Journal Officiel.
Yet despite the tests’ availability, the official health advice is that people should consult a doctor first before having one done - or at the very least, to consult a doctor about the results.
Brittany regional health authority l'Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS) de Bretagne explains: “It is possible to get a test without prescription [but in that case] the test will not be for any medical reason nor will its result be explained by a doctor.”
The ARS continued: “You are advised to consult a doctor to avoid any erroneous interpretation of the results.”
It added that no blood test can offer any "immunity passport", or allow people to abandon barrier measures such as wearing of a mask or handwashing.
Similarly, the tests are called “guidance” tests, because if the result is positive, it must be confirmed by a second test done in a proper medical analysis lab.
In addition, the tests are only reimbursed by the State if they have been ordered by a doctor for a specific medical reason.
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