Are we doing enough tests to stem the resumption of the coronavirus epidemic? While we now know that a large proportion of infected people are asymptomatic, the ability to be able to test massively is now at the heart of the government’s strategy.
Until recently, France was deemed to be late since in May, during the deconfinement, it only performed 200,000 tests per week. According to statistics released on July 28, this figure “Is now close to 500,000 per week”, against 360,000 seven days earlier, according to the Ministry of Health, which has set a capacity target of 700,000 tests per week.
More professionals more places and now free tests
To massify the withdrawals, the government very recently took a number of measures, notably in a decree of July 25. First, the number of professionals able to carry out PCR tests (by nasopharyngeal sampling) has been increased since to medical biologists have been added laboratory technicians, nurses, certain students, firefighters and marine firefighters and rescuers. .
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In addition, the places have been diversified: in addition to the laboratories, these tests are now carried out in mobile teams and barnums. Then, a large number of screening vouchers were distributed in areas with high virus circulation. Finally, the decree of July 25 made the test free for all and possible without a prescription. A mandatory test is also now required for people returning from 16 countries at risk.
The result in 36 hours
Despite this, in a number of metropolises, in particular the Paris region, it is necessary to wait several days before having access to a test. And “In 80% of cases, from the test, it takes 36 hours to get the result”, estimates the ministry.
A delay deemed unsatisfactory by professionals. “Reactivity is absolutely essential since we are contagious 24 to 48 hours before symptoms appear, explains Anne-Claude Crémieux, infectious disease specialist at Saint-Louis hospital. To break the chain of contamination, one would need to be able to diagnose the virus within 24 hours of symptoms and contact cases within 72 hours of dating the diagnosed person. “
According to this expert, at least four targeted categories should be tested within these timeframes: “People who have symptoms, even mild ones; people in contact with infected patients; those who took risks by multiplying contacts without respecting barrier gestures; and those who frequented places accelerators of the epidemic such as hospitals, nursing homes and medico-social establishments ”.
Lack of speed
Or, “We do not have the capacity and the speed necessary to test even these four categories”, believes Anne-Claude Crémieux, who regrets that the authorities did not take advantage of the two months of lull to better prepare.
Olivier Véran, the Minister of Health, pointed to the laboratories. “In Île-de-France, we have thus identified 30 laboratories, belonging to large private groups, which do not carry out PCR tests, he declared in The Parisian July 26. We called them all to do it. ”
Less than 1.5% of people tested are positive
“Of these 30 cases, most of the problems have already been resolved, answers François Blanchecotte, president of the National Union of Biologists. I also recall that PCR testing is only part of our business. And when we have 4 or 5 employees, who have been on the bridge for months, and that we usually close between July 15 and August 15, it is not so easy to organize. “
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“Instead of pointing fingers at laboratories, the authorities would do better to work in coordination with them, he adds. When we distribute 300,000 screening vouchers in the Hauts de France and more than a million in 32 municipalities in Île-de-France without consultation, necessarily, this embolishes everything, the telephone switchboards, the deadlines for appointments and analysis of the results. ”
“The government’s strategy is aberrant because we can track anyone anyhow, Bluntly considers Lionel Barrand, president of the National Union of Young Medical Biologists. There, for example, we are embolized by people who want to be tested before going on vacation. How do you want to screen 70 million French people, and start over the following week when they have been in contact with other people? “ While less than 1.5% of those tested are positive, he estimates that“We’re looking for a needle in a haystack. We should prioritize people at risk better and above all make clearer recommendations to the French so that they better comply with barrier gestures. “