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How to get tested for Coronavirus

The official state health emergency has been extended until July 10, plus when and how to get tested for Coronavirus.

This is to allow control measures to continue and for tighter controls to be reinstated if there is, as feared, a second wave of Covid-19 infections. The extension includes new measures bringing in 14-day quarantine for some arrivals to France and continuing contact for victims and their families.

There are different déconfinement measures for departments zoned red – where infection is still strong – or green. The emergency measures, in force since March 24, gave legal force to the previous restrictions and now allow reopening of businesses and certain public sites in green zones.

They also set a 100km limit for travel, if travelling outside your department of residence, and require an attestation for travel beyond 100km, with only set valid reasons authorised. Air passengers must now wear a mask and provide a statement specifying no Covid symptoms.

Read more: Covid-19: can I get a refund for a cancelled journey?

When and how to get tested

A target of 700,000 Covid-19 tests per week is close to being achieved, authorities claim. Testing labs have been mobilising to face up to demand, including new “drive-in” stations where people can be tested in their cars. A prescription is required for all tests and they are fully state-reimbursed. You cannot simply go to a centre and take one voluntarily.

The usual test is a PCR, done by introducing a swab stick deeply into the nose to look for the presence of virus DNA. A second type is by blood test, seeking antibodies against the virus in the blood. The latter indicates that the patient has been infected at some point recently but it will not pick up if they have just caught the virus. It is hoped that these tests will help later to evaluate the spread of the epidemic.

Anyone who has symptoms such as a dry cough, fever, tiredness, loss of taste or smell, or difficulty breathing should contact their GP for a test prescription. This may be possible by webcam or phone. If testing positive, you will be asked to self-isolate, which could be at home or, if impractical, other solutions are being organised in parts of France, such as isolation in a requisitioned hotel.

GPs will indicate on a database who has tested positive and local contact tracing “brigades”, which include staff from local Cpam state health insurance bodies, will follow up by contacting those likely to have been in close contact with the person, based on information they provided to the GP.

The possible roll-out of an official voluntary mobile phone app using Bluetooth to alert you if you have been close to an infected person for a prolonged time was set to be debated by MPs at the end of May. People contacted by brigades will be asked questions to assess risk and, if necessary, be asked to remain in self-isolation and to take a test at a designated place. In this case, you do not have to obtain a separate prescription, as one will be sent to the test centre.

Testing can be done at medical analysis labs, hospitals, temporary testing centres, and in some cases at home. You can find a map of centres here. Patients must be contacted with results within 24 hours. Swab tests are only effective from a day or two before the start of symptoms and may also not be effective if carried out over a week after the start of the illness. If you have symptoms, it is important to get tested as soon as possible.

Read more: Covid-19 France: 1,555 in intensive care

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