Covid-19, end of the mask: faced with the collapse of pharmacy tests, the fear of distorted figures

The number of new contaminations by Covid-19 marks a sharp decline in one week in France, and the incidence rate follows the same curve. However, it is very difficult to say that this weakening of the circulation of the virus reflects the health reality. Indeed, pharmacy screening has collapsed.

On paper, the figures related to the circulation of Covid-19 in France are very encouraging. The incidence rate was divided by four in six weeks at the national level. It was thus 1,401 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on March 30, it was only 365 on Wednesday evening, according to the latest figures published by the French Public Health Agency. And the digital virus spread tracking tool CovidTracker recorded an average of 36,000 new infections daily in recent days, down 21% from the previous week.

But the health authorities fear the trompe-l’œil: in fact, over the past fortnight, the attendance at screening has collapsed in the face of the apparent lull in the circulation of the virus. Illustration, Saturday, in a pharmacy in Montpellier, deserted by individuals awaiting a test.

Hérault example, national trend

“A year and a half”, “in January”, “it’s been five months now”. The testimonies collected in front of the pharmacy when asking passers-by the date of their last test are eloquent. In her pharmacy, Hélène Peyre confirms this drastic decline in screening, delivering the daily figures for the tests carried out in her business:

“It went from double to single, and even, a little bit more.” “In January, I think we would have done about fifteen tests, there we are at three or four”, she continues again.

And the Hérault example is not an isolated case. On the contrary, it reflects a trend that applies to the entire territory. Two million tests were carried out in France between April 25 and May 1, a statistic at its lowest since November 2021.

The self-test factor

After more than two years of anxiety and the fight against Covid-19 and its cohort of variants, it seems that the hour of relaxation has come for the French, on the eve of lifting, starting this Monday, of the last major constraint of the sanitary arsenal: the obligation to wear a mask in transport.

In front of our cameras, epidemiologist Catherine Hill, however, identified a final explanatory factor for this digital collapse: “A lot of people are doing self-tests”. “They are losing their sense of smell, their taste, they are in bad shape, there is no doubt that they have the Covid but they are not going to be tested in pharmacies, so that it is returned to the system so a lot of cases are not taken into account”, observes the specialist again.

Jules Boiteau and Charlotte Planet with RV

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