Faced with the contagiousness of Omicron, the government screening strategy called into question

Do we test too much in France? Should we change our strategy? These questions may seem incongruous as the Covid-19 pandemic, boosted by the circulation of the Omicron variant, is experiencing a strong surge. But, faced with the very strong contagiousness of the new variant, therefore with more sick people and many more contact cases, which results in a traffic jam on the tests, the government is considering an adaptation of its strategy. According to our sources, a reflection is underway at the Ministry of Solidarity and Health on an approach “Less exhaustive of the test policy”. “We have to see what can be done to lighten the weight on the question of tests, to abandon exhaustive surveillance and, perhaps, to move towards syndromic surveillance, on samples, but this modification could only be done when the situation will be trivialized ”, confides, for his part, the virologist Bruno Lina, member of the scientific council.

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Because the epidemic outbreak is here. According to the point of Public Health France, Thursday January 6, the incidence rate was 1,908 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the week of December 27 to January 2, an increase of 129% compared to the previous week. To this surge are added the new instructions, which lead to a massive use of tests, the number of which has reached a “Stratospheric level”, according to Bruno Lina, “With more than 2% of the population getting tested daily”. Every day, more than 1.5 million people get tested in France.

In a press release released on Friday, the Ministry of Solidarity and Health refers to “Unprecedented proportions”. “Between December 31, 2021 and January 6, 2022, nearly 9.5 million tests were performed, including 2.06 million PCR tests and 6.65 million antigenic tests”, specifies the ministry, that is to say a growth of 25% compared to the previous week. By comparison, during previous peaks, there were up to more than 3 million weekly tests in December 2020, and nearly 6 million in August 2021.

“Incomprehensible” diagram

The records are largely broken, which is explained by the recourse, compulsory to access the health pass and the various activities of daily life, to the various tests: PCR, antigens or self-tests, With the arrival of Omicron, of some question the reliability of these tests with regard to the virulence of the new variant, and question the strategy adopted by the government. Thus, the national union Les Biologistes Médicale denounced, in a press release on January 6, a “New pattern of screening and behavior to follow (…) incomprehensible “. “The government asks to carry out PCRs when it is not necessary and does not propose them when it would be useful to break the chain of contamination”, explained to World its president, Doctor Lionel Barrand.

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Faced with the contagiousness of Omicron, the government screening strategy called into question

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