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The Test Put to the Test – Getting Tested for COVID-19 in France

I always have a few chores to tackle when I go to France—special tasks renewing my passport or opening a bank account, routine appointments like my yearly dental checkup.

This year, I decided to follow the trend and I added a COVID-19 test to the list. Hey, it’s a unique Pandemic YearTM opportunity after all!

No symptoms, no contact with anyone sick and few “risks” taken other than just, you know, living. Nantes is also a relatively “safe” region in France and most clusters seem to be in workplaces. Still, I wanted to make sure we were healthy before going back to Canada and I was also curious to know if we had a past infection with SARS-CoV-2—chances were we hadn’t but we were sick a couple of times in Latin America last winter.

“If I can get tested easily enough, I’ll do it for the experience,” I said when I arrived.

A couple of weeks later, I Googled “COVID test Nantes.” Among the first results was a medical lab with several locations including one a ten-minute walk from my mom’s place.

Booking an appointment was easy enough and this was exactly the kind of process I was looking for—I didn’t want to join a long queue of sick people nor go to the hospital because potential risk of exposure was higher.

I filled out the form online and answered a few questions—did I have a prescription for the test (no prescription was fine), did I have symptoms, was I a healthcare worker, etc. I don’t have a current social insurance number in France but it wasn’t required, I just had to pay 37 euro for the test.

Then I had to book my time slot for the next day or the day after. They were every five minutes, so I assumed the process would be quick.

We showed up five minutes early and waited outside. There was a lot of confusion about appointment times and several people were turned away for mysterious reasons. The lab employee asked me several times why I was doing the test (“peace of mind”) and stressed on the fact there were many false positives and negatives.

I also asked for the serology test, i.e. a blood test to see if I had been infected with the SARS-CoV-2.

The test was done right at the (wide open) door of the lab. I sat on the chair and a minute later I was done.

“Your turn, Mark!”

It was his first blood test ever but he didn’t even cry. He said it hurts less than the flu shot, go figure.

We were handed out cards with unique code to check the results online and I got the email saying they were ready the next morning. Two negative tests and no COVID-19 antibodies either (too bad!).

Even though the actual test was pretty straightforward I think testing capacity and accuracy should be improved. My own experience is anecdotal and I was lucky this downtown lab wasn’t too busy that day because it only has about 50 spots available. I don’t think I’d be able to get tested this quickly in Paris or in Ottawa…

My mom asked her doctor about getting tested as well before going back to work. “Don’t bother unless you’re actually sick,” she advised. “Too many false positives and negatives.”

Makes you wonder how accurate research data is if it’s based on these tests…

The medical lab downtown Nantes
The medical lab downtown Nantes
COVID-19 test in Nantes, my blood test
COVID-19 test in Nantes, my blood test
COVID-19 test in Nantes, Mark after the blood test
COVID-19 test in Nantes, Mark after the blood test
Codes to get the COVID-19 test results online
Codes to get the COVID-19 test results online
COVID-19 test results
COVID-19 test results

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