Testing for coronavirus
Following the Minister of health's declaration that "France is ready for large scale testing for the coronavirus’. Here is a breakdown of the latest report given by French media.
What are the testing options?
To find out if you are infected with the virus, only one type of test is reported to be useful and that is the virological RT-PCR which will detect if the virus is present.
The examination, which lasts only a few seconds, consists of introducing a swab into the patient's nasal cavities in order to recover the RNA from the virus.
In the event of a positive result, this means that you are a carrier of Sars-CoV-2: you must therefore avoid contact with others and watch for any worsening in your state of health.
If the test is negative, chances are you are not carrying the virus, but it is impossible to be 100% sure. You may be in the incubation period of the disease and have a viral load that is too low to be detected. You can also be a "false negative", which happens in about 30% of cases, according to some studies.
Then there are the serological tests, which consists of a blood test for antibodies, which doesn’t have the same purpose as the nasal swab. This test is useful to know if you have been in contact with the virus in the past, but doesn’t allow you to know if you are immunized, as pointed out by the High Authority for Health.
These tests are only indicated in very specific situations (for example for people developing symptoms after a negative PCR test, or for nursing staff in frequent contact with the public). These serological tests, which are still not validated by the health authorities and do not open the right to reimbursement, are not currently part of the management strategy laid out by the government.
When to be tested?
If symptoms of Covid-19 appear (fever, cough, loss of taste or smell, respiratory discomfort, etc.), you must immediately consult your doctor, who will most likely prescribe a PCR test to be carried out in a laboratory. In the event of a positive test, the doctor will then ask you for the names and contact details of the people you have met, so that they can contact them and ask them to be tested.
If you have no symptoms, but have been identified as a contact case of a sick person, it is advisable to perform a PCR test seven days after the contact in question, as this is the time when the virus is most likely to be detected. If done too early, the risk of "false negative" increases.
Is a prescription compulsory?
If you are symptomatic, a prescription is compulsory. It will be requested by the laboratory which will carry out the PCR test. To obtain this prescription, you do not have to physically go to the doctor's office, telephone contact is advised.
If you do not have a doctor or if the latter is not available, you can call the Social Security platform on 09 72 72 99 who will direct you to a practitioner. Outside opening hours or in case of severe symptoms, you can call 15.
Is screening reimbursed?
The cost of a PCR test is 54 euros. Since March 7th, this amount was reimbursed 60% by Social Security, the rest being covered by mutuals. Since May 11th, it is reimbursed 100% by Health Insurance.
Serological tests are not currently reimbursed by Social Security. However, they may soon be approved once they have been approved by the health authorities.
Do all laboratories perform these tests?
Not all city laboratories offer PCR tests to screen for Sars-CoV-2. The sante.fr site, set up by the ministry, lists the 2,506 screening points in France. By entering your postal code, you immediately identify the laboratory closest to you.
It is advisable not to just turn up at a laboratory for testing. For Covid-19 screening, some laboratories only operate in the form of a "drive". Others, if their premises allow, welcome patients by appointment during dedicated time slots”.
Do the laboratories have enough tests?
Currently, patients have no difficulty getting tested, according to officials.
The week before the end of lockdown, nearly 70,000 tests were carried out (including around 1,500 positive), this is according to data from the Ministry of Health.