On Christmas Eve, the French rush to the tests

REPORTAGE – In laboratories and pharmacies, an uninterrupted flow of people came to be tested on Wednesday. Professionals are preparing for a third wave of the epidemic in early January.

“I'm sure I don't have it, but my father is ultra-old so I come to get tested, like one of my friends,” smiles a client.

Haro on the tests! A few hours before the Christmas holidays, many Parisians find their loved ones with a lighter spirit. In pharmacies, this sharp increase in demand has led to endless flows of customers wishing to obtain an antigen test, as soon as the stores open. The labs have felt a wave rising in recent days.

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Rue Damrémont, in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, the Darmont pharmacy welcomes “a lot of peopleas Christmas approaches. “We were doing around 30 tests a day in normal times. These days we’re more than double“Reports one of the managers. “We had 84 on Saturday“Launches his colleague, behind his cash register. Outside, one of these small tents which have flowered in recent weeks in Paris is in front of the pharmacy. We welcome people who come to be tested.

To manage this flow, the pharmacy only welcomes visitors by appointment. The book is full for the next few days, but it also welcomes, between two appointments, people wishing to be tested without having reserved a slot. An incessant ballet of customers comes to fill out a small information sheet inside, before queuing outside. “I’m sure I don’t have it, but my father is ultra-old so I come to get tested, like one of my friendssmiles a client, in her twenties, who has come to be tested.

We’re underwater!»

A few meters further, in a competing pharmacy, same observation: “we don’t really have time to answer you“says the pharmacist, adding that her”appointment book is shielded“. “We’re underwater!“. In the 17th, at the Guy Môquet metro station, a professional, with foggy glasses, even explained that she was “exhausted“. Outside, the tests are carried out under a blue tent, sheltered from the rain. “The activity is intense and I have not planned to take the holidays because we must continue the care for the French“, blows the pharmacist.

As Christmas approached, and despite , Parisians therefore came to be tested en masse. If it is less reliable than an RT-PCR test, the antigenic test has the advantage of making its conclusion quickly, in just a few minutes. It can therefore be done at the last minute without any problem. This trend can be observed throughout the country:we expect a peak in tests today and tomorrow morning“, declared this Wednesday on FranceInfo the boss of the Union of pharmacists’ unions, Gilles Bonnefont. Pharmacies have recorded more than a million tests in the past four weeks, he added.

Some pharmacists have even preferred to abandon the tests, which are too labour-intensive and time-consuming. “For pharmacies that carry out Covid antigenic tests, the general activity has increased very strongly, including in terms of turnover for parapharmacy», Indicates the manager of the Muller pharmacy. “We tested for 15 days, at the beginning of December, then we stopped because we had problems with the team that was in charge of carrying out the tests. We were afraid of complications to come“, he recalls. And, today, there is no question of resuming the tests: “we are already quite busy. We are six people, the tests are mainly for large pharmacies which can mobilize staff exclusively for this. Otherwise, it risks creating tensions within the teams.or a massive workload, justifies the doctor of pharmacy.

In the labs, we are preparing for the “third wave» which points to the horizon

The situation is a little different in the laboratories. Rue Vauvenargues, a security officer filters the entries of customers who have come to perform an RT-PCR test. “We test around 60 people a day. On Monday, we had a peak around a hundred tests. Since then, the rate has dropped», Comments a laboratory assistant. The longer time – between 12h and 48h – to obtain the result of these certainly more reliable tests is undoubtedly for many: it is more uncertain to obtain its result in time for Christmas Eve. “People who come for testing are symptom-free. They are mostly people taking precautions“, adds the worker.

From late October to late November we didn’t have a lot of PCR“, says a laboratory assistant from another establishment, avenue de Saint-Ouen. From around twenty tests per day at that time, the pace then soared, reaching “160 to 180 RT-PCR tests per day“. “These are mainly people with upcoming surgeries or who are going on vacation, since mid-December“, specifies our interlocutor. In the laboratory, a client explains that he needs a test to fly to the Caribbean in a few days.

The testing sector therefore worksflat outto handle this workload. “It will go up in the coming weeks: despite the curfew, people will want to leave on December 31, or they will want to be tested before“, we advance in this laboratory near the metro La Fourche. Demand should not weaken at the start of 2021: “people will want to see if they got infected during the holidays“, predicts the laboratory assistant. And to add that the teams were preparing for a third wave, at the beginning of the year, carried by people who became infected in the last week of 2020. A fear “that circulates internallybetween the teams, she whispers.

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