“saturated” screening centers in Île-de-France

Departs to overseas France, returns from marriage or in contact with a polluted colleague … More and more French people rush to screening centers to be tested for free and without a prescription. Some laboratory staff do not hide their problems.

During the summer, Covid-19 screening centers were stormed by residents of Ile-de-France. The young … like the old. “There are children who spent a day at the leisure center with a facilitator who tested positive for Covid-19, there are also 25-45-year-olds who have been in contact with a positive person in their company”, details from France 24 the Ministry of Health’s information service line.

At the Delafontaine Hospital in Saint-Denis, in the Paris suburbs, the wave began with the first departures on holiday. “Many came to be tested a few days before taking the plane abroad,” details France 24 Caroline *, a laboratory assistant. France requires a negative test performed less than 72 hours before the flight for travelers to Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion, Saint-Martin, Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. “They are completely stressed by the thought of not being able to leave,” the young woman adds. Some countries, such as the United States, the United Arab Emirates or even Morocco – before the border was closed on 16 August – have introduced the same instructions and forced the French to be tested.

Over 600,000 tests every week

In August more than 600,000 tests conducted weekly in France -Goes almost 500,000 in July. This is mainly the virological PCR test (which stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction, or polymerase chain reaction), which is performed by inserting a cotton swab into the patient’s nose. It detects the presence of the virus when the test is performed. The cost, fully covered by health insurance: 54 euros.

It is also possible to be tested serologically, from a blood test in the laboratory, to look for antibodies to the virus and to find out if you have been infected before. The prescription is necessary to get compensation (it costs about 10 euros). Others, called Trod (for rapid diagnostic orientation testing), have been available at pharmacies since July 11 with a result within ten minutes for a cost of about 20 euros. Saliva testing is still being studied while the sale of Covid-19 self-testing is still banned in France.

France offers virological and serological tests for screening for Covid-19. © solidarites.sante.gouv.fr

Since the epidemic began, the government has intensified its screening policy: after prioritizing people at risk and to healthcare professionals in April, the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, may have initiated a large-scale screening campaign. scale by offering it to all French people. To facilitate the process, he announced on July 25 that it was no longer necessary to have a prescription or to show symptoms to take a test.

Result: The laboratories are overwhelmed by the requirements. In a center of 13e arrondissement, staff were forced to adapt to their patient base by agreeing to screen every day. “Before the summer, the Covid tests were carried out by appointment, only on Wednesdays,” says France 24 Marie *, one of the laboratory assistants. The overload of work also caused a delay in the results: up to more than 72 hours, instead of 24 to 48 hours initially.

“People will be tested without thinking”

Today, Marie particularly regrets the lack of communication about the terms of the test. “People will be tested without thinking when it is necessary to wait five to seven days after the last contact with the infected person,” she specifies, adding that such situations can create “false negatives”. On the other hand, if the infected person is under the same roof as the patient, screening can be done immediately.

“This anxiety, this stress, this pressure … it comes from the media,” Véronique *, a biologist from another “saturated” Parisian laboratory, is taken away. The group registers 2,000 Covid tests per day in Île-de-France. “If we present pathological signs, if we are in a cluster, I understand that we will be tested, but how can I explain that some come back three times? How do I explain that the airlines require the test to be carried out 72 hours before theft? “People call us to ask us to change hours … This is where we are,” laments the biologist, who does not hide her “trouble.”

“Tests have become consumer goods”

In its massive screening campaign, the government also plans to expand the list of healthcare professionals authorized to take such samples. A state-certified nurse, a nursing assistant, a medical student, a firefighter or even a first aid worker are now authorized to perform tests.

But for Véronique, the saturation problem is based more on free screening, which has turned testing into a “consumer product”. In his laboratory today, it is the young people who will be tested best. “They come out of a wedding or a family reunion,” she sighs. At the same time, the elderly, whom she calls “the victim of Covid”, are only 15% over the door to her laboratory.

Instead of strengthening the screening, Véronique would have preferred a “real test strategy”. Before you add: “And now a question arises: who should pay? And when?”

* First names have changed.