“For the moment, we do not plan to go back on free testing”. Thursday morning, on LCI, government spokesman Gabriel Attal responded to the question raised by Jean-Luc Mélenchon the night before. Invited at 8 p.m. on TF1, the rebellious presidential candidate demanded the return to free Covid-19 tests for the end of the year celebrations. “For now, those who are vaccinated, you can take the test for free, but if you aren’t, you can’t… but who cares who gets vaccinated or not! What we want to know is who is sick or notHe declared.
In France, tests are no longer automatically reimbursed since October 15, for a small fringe of the population. Unvaccinated adults – just over 5 million people – and without a prescription, targeted by the measure, must thus pay at least 44 euros for a PCR test and 22 euros for an antigen test. A measure that is not debated only at the political level.
Break the thermometer
Several scientists have indeed positioned themselves, such as the professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Mahmoud Zureik, who considers in l’Express that “In the face of the fifth wave, we once again need rapid and free access for all” to tests. «In a period of epidemic rebound, during which the challenge is to ensure that all the tools to fight against Covid-19 are at their maximum efficiency, it is necessary to be able to ensure that infected people, regardless of their vaccination status, are detected on as quickly as possible “, declares, for his part, epidemiologist Pascal Crépey To l’Obs.
It is that the passage by paying for tests poses several concerns. To begin with, it disrupts one of the indicators used to gauge the epidemic level. Indeed, the incidence is based on the number of positive tests per week. If we change the test policy, we disrupt this calculation and make the comparisons of the level of incidence before and after October 15, 2021 less relevant. It is like breaking your thermometer. Thus, Professor Éric Caumes, infectious disease specialist at Hôtel-Dieu, considers on BFMTV qu’“We cannot compare the situation of the current epidemic with that which was there a month ago when the tests were still reimbursed”.
Increase the risk of contamination
Moreover, this decision could turn out to be a sanitary misconception. Indeed, if the paid tests concern, in fact, only people not vaccinated without prescriptions, this is the population most likely to contract the virus. And therefore to infect other people while waiting to be able to be tested. This is one of Mahmoud Zureik’s arguments: “Not having rapid access to the tests could be detrimental, because if you have symptoms or if you are in contact and you have to go through a medical prescription to be able to do this test, this delays the diagnosis, the treatment, and all this also leads to the spread of the virus ”.
In its epidemiological update of November 11, Public Health France also reported that the time between the first clinical signs and the date of sampling had “Reached 2.5 days, its highest value observed in 2021”. A delay which also poses a problem for the effectiveness of treatments against Covid-19. Whether it is the monoclonal antibodies already authorized or the pills which are about to be authorized, all should be taken within the first five days of the first symptoms.