The Minister of Health had announced it: since this Monday 6th April 2020, laboratories which have volunteered can carry out screening tests for Coronavirus Covid-19.
The first step towards mass screening for Covid-19? This is in any case what this message from the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, Friday 3rd April 2020, might suggest.
Laboratoires hospitaliers, de ville, départementaux, vétérinaires, de recherche, de gendarmerie, de police. J’entends et salue ceux qui se portent volontaires pour participer à l’effort national de tests #COVID19. Autorisations ce WE. Mobilisation des ressources dès lundi.
— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) April 3, 2020
In fact, as of this Monday 6th April 2020, laboratories that are not normally authorized to perform medical biology procedures will be able to “participate in the national screening effort” of Coronavirus Covid-19.
A decree published in the Official Journal on April 6 now frames this screening.
Which establishments are affected?
Contacted, the general direction of health specifies that “the public research laboratories, the veterinary laboratories and the departmental laboratories” are henceforth authorized to carry out these tests.
In some places, these screenings are carried out in a parking lot, and not in the laboratory premises. It is the “drive” system. This rapid test follows the same method as in a healthcare establishment.
Who can be screened?
Under fire from critics about its screening campaign, the government has therefore revised its copy. So far, only those most at risk or with symptoms have been tested.
Today, tests can be performed on the following population:
- The first three people with symptoms suggestive of Coronavirus Covid-19 in medico-social structures, especially retirement homes, and in collective structures housing vulnerable people;
- Inpatients with symptoms suggestive of Coronavirus Covid-19 as it is necessary to be able to quickly understand the patient’s condition and avoid transmissions by appropriate isolation and hygiene measures;
- Symptomatic pregnant women regardless of the term of pregnancy;
- Donors of hematopoietic organs, tissues or stem cells;
- Health professionals, at the onset of symptoms suggestive of Coronavirus Covid-19.
The ministry specifies that this “additional screening capacity” will be mobilized in particular to reinforce tests within the nursing staff and in retirement homes. The goal? “Take immediate measures to avoid transmission between residents”.
An initiative too late?
Since mid-March, many city laboratories had offered their help. The veterinary laboratories had even written a letter to the attention of Edouard Philippe asking for authorization to perform screenings, as reported by Mediapart .
“Many of us wanted to do that,” says Dr François Blanchecotte, president of the Syndicat des Biologists . With more than 7,000 biologists in France, the medical analysis laboratories represent a striking force to reach the objective set by the government: 50,000 tests per day by the end of April.
An achievable goal? “Only if there are a lot of swabs,” says the doctor.
France has therefore decided to follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), which through its president, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated: “You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we do not know who is infected. “