As the number of new Covid-19 infections increases more and more by day in France, more and more people are trying to get tested.
So, to face the flow of potentially sick people, willing to get tested, this October 15, 2020 Health Minister Olivier Véran confirmed during a press brief presided by Jean Castex that “antigenic tests” were on their way.
“5 million have been deployed already” he said before adding that others will be available at city doctors’ and in pharmacies. “We now enjoy all the recommendations from the High Health Authority to enable hospitals, private doctors, dispensary pharmacists, private nurses to get these tests soon” the Health Minister went on before saying “it will take some time […] It will not replace PCR tests”.
This is now done. As confirmed a few days ago on France Info, the “antigenic” tests are available in pharmacies. “I signed the decree allowing pharmacists, private doctors and nurses to buy, get and run these tests. They can do so starting next week” the Health Minister said. Yet, as said by Le Parisien, these tests arrive bit by bit. Therefore, not all pharmacies will be able to provide them in the upcoming days.
As for the Ordre national des Pharmaciens [Pharmacists’ National Order] recalls that “the rules say that only one pharmacist can run the tests within the pharmacy for private tests”.
Another detail, price. This test is free of charge for the person that comes to get tested. But the pharmacist charges the test to the health insurance “for the maximum cost of €8.50 excluding VAT”.
But what are these new tests about? They aim at being quicker than PCR tests. Therefore, for an antigenic test, the result is available within ten minutes, against two or three days for a PCR test.
As for PCR, it enables to know if someone is infected with Covid-19 or not when tested. This is no serological test enabling to say if someone has been infected by the virus already and then developed immunity.
Yet, the bad news is like for PRC, it requires a nose swab completed by placing a swab into your nose. The goal? Looking to the viral proteins. Once the sample collected, it is mixed with a reagent on a paper test strip or a tube. Fifteen to twenty minutes are enough to see if the test strip is colored or not. If colored, the result is positive.
The other inconvenient of the antigenic tests would be – so far – that they are less reliable than PCR tests and could detect a lower number of people infected by Covid-19. Only the people with a big viral charge can be identified with this test. But these quick tests could yet help sort out people likely to be contaminated more easily like in airports or hospitals.