World, Europe

France to carry out nationwide coronavirus tests

French Nobel Laureate Sinoussi says confinement only true operational strategy

Cindi Cook   | 25.03.2020
France to carry out nationwide coronavirus tests



France said Wednesday it will carry out nationwide tests for coronavirus after the lockdown is lifted.

The announcement by the country’s Health Ministry came after a recommendation by the Committee Analysis Research and Expert (CARE), a panel of 12 doctors and researchers, which convened Tuesday upon a request by President Emanuel Macron.

The committee is chaired by virologist Dr. Francoise-Barre Sinoussi of the Pasteur Institute, winner of the Nobel Prize in 2008 for her role in the discovery of the AIDS virus.

“Confinement is currently the only true operational strategy," said the committee.

As fatalities from the virus mount, the lockdown which started March 10 could continue until end of April.

Health Minister Olivier Veran issued a cautionary statement that the rules of confinement may change when the circulation of the virus is controlled.

The French are learning from a recent Chinese study in Science magazine which revealed 86% of the population surveyed were unaware they had the disease and went on to infect others.

The Chinese also utilized mathematical modeling showing 50% of infections were spread by people unaware of infection, or who had few symptoms.

France had developed tests as of the end of January through the Pasteur Institute and currently conducts approximately 5,000 tests per day. Director of General of Health Jerome Salomon announced this will increase to 29,000 per day by end of this week, and up to 50,000 by end of the current confinement.

Presently, testing is done through a nasal swab. A more exacting test, known as serological, looks for the virus in blood samples, which delivers more precise information.

"We will thus be able to know the share of the population that has been immunized and the size of the epidemic," said Bruno Lina, a member of CARE.

France has an online testing set up in place with 24 questions to help people assess whether the symptoms they have are coronavirus-related.

In a statement Wednesday on France Info Radio, President of the French Hospitals Federation Frederic Valletoux made it clear that reported numbers are only those coming from hospitals, so they could be inaccurate.

"The absolute numbers would no doubt be much higher if we aggregated what's happening in retirement homes as well as the people who die at home."

As of Wednesday, France's death toll stands at 1,100 with reported cases at 22,302.

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