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Coronavirus: France wants to ramp up testing and tracing

Credit: Belga

France wants to test its citizens for coronavirus on a massive scale and set up tracing brigades in every department, as French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Tuesday.

Philippe reaffirmed his goal of carrying out 700,000 tests per week from 11 May and envisioned tracing on a wider scale. The figure of 700,000 is linked to epidemiological models which predict 1,000 to 3,000 new cases per day from 11 May. For each case, it will be necessary to test “at least 20 to 25 people on average” who have come across someone with coronavirus in the previous days, Philippe said.

That’s a total of 525,000 per week, leaving a margin of 175,000 for “pursuing screening campaigns as we have already undertaken” for health professionals and allied employees, in particular, he noted.

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As soon as a person has tested positive, “we will begin work to identify and test all those, symptomatic or not, who have had close contact with them,” Philippe said, specifying that the tests would be 100% reimbursed by social security.

Once identified, infected people will have to isolate themselves, whether “at home, which will result in the confinement of the entire household for 14 days,” or “in a place made available to him,” Philippe said.

The government will have control mechanisms in place “if they should be necessary, but our goal is to rely largely on the civic-mindedness of each person.”

The tracing will happen as it is currently being carried out, by local nurses and doctors, pending the possible deployment of a StopCovid app, which would use mobile data to trace infections.

This app is the subject of scrutiny, with people questioning civil liberties which “seem to me to be well-founded. They must be raised,” Philippe told members of the National Assembly. Even within the majority, there is criticism about the mobile application. There will be a debate on the app once it will be functioning and before it is put into use, he said.

France is one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, counting 123,279 confirmed cases and 22,821 deaths since the onset of the pandemic as of 27 April, according to the WHO.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times