Relaxation of the health protocol in schools, “a relief” for pharmacies

Self-tests will suffice. On Monday, the head of government, Jean Castex, announced a relaxation of the health protocol in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic in schools, where the Omicron wave is infecting many children, to the chagrin of teachers and parents. Now, the rule includes three self-tests for children in contact, with no obligation to undergo antigen or PCR.

“Indeed, we see these queues. I am the father of a family, I can clearly see what is happening ”, underlined the Prime Minister to the JT of France 2, defending“ simplification responses ”. As for pharmacists, who perform the vast majority of antigenic tests, this new protocol should bring a little air.

“A real pain”

The previous protocol, announced only the day before the start of the January 3 school year, and strongly criticized for its complexity, provided that each contact case student immediately undergoes a PCR or antigen test. This Monday, “I called all the laboratories around – no room – and went around the pharmacies. It was a real hassle to find a niche to have my daughter tested in a contact case, says Nadia. Finally, she was able to do an antigen test in a pharmacy, but I thought I was going to have to keep her at home all week, “blows the mother, who would have” preferred that the announcement of Castex falls earlier ! “

Because in pharmacies, the demand for screening is such with the Omicron wave that it is not always easy to follow, as evidenced by a pharmacy assistant. in an open letter published Sunday on social networks. “Nothing is going well. Health protocols are constantly changing. The patients are lost, and so are we. The patients are tired, anxious, angry, nervous, and so am I, ”said the young woman.

“No time for a lunch break or a pee break”

Pharmacies and laboratories are drowning in nasopharyngeal swabs, around 1.5 million each day. A hellish pace for all staff. ” We can not do everything. We cannot test an entire school at 7 p.m. because there is a positive case in all the classes, continues the young woman in her open letter. Sometimes I have to refuse to test because I don’t have time ”.

In the pharmacy in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, where she has been carrying out antigenic tests since August, Eden, a laboratory technician, has also seen the pace of work change with the waves. “In October, when antigenic comfort testing began to pay off, demand fell. I only had about 40 patients a day, remembers the young woman. Since January, with Omicron, I have 300 a day, half of which are children, who come from neighborhood schools to be tested by whole classes as soon as a case is detected, she describes. Our processes are well established, and I learned to work very quickly to avoid long queues. But at this rate, what is certain is that I don’t have time for a lunch break or even a pee break, ”Eden says, smiling.

” It is a relief “

With this new version of the protocol in schools, a simple self-test, to be repeated on D + 2 and D + 4, must therefore be carried out. All three will be free, thanks to a certificate issued by the school. But they will continue to be distributed only in pharmacies, “although large-scale distribution has tried to get hold of stocks”, deplores Pierre-Olivier Variot, pharmacist and president of Union of Community Pharmacists Unions (USPO).

And in pharmacies, this relaxation is welcomed. “It’s a relief,” indicates Pierre-Olivier Variot, “even if the self-tests are not of the greatest reliability in terms of monitoring the epidemic,” he tempers. If the children in contact are asymptomatic and the parents really play the game in carrying out these self-tests, they may be enough, and this helps ease the pressure on pharmacies. On the other hand, if they show symptoms of the virus, an antigen test or PCR is required ”.

“We need hands”

Supply side, if the Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, recognized on Friday “here and there shortages of self-test stocks”, pharmacies should have enough to follow demand. Eleven million new kits must be delivered during the week, assured Jean Castex on Monday. “We have sufficient stocks, both for antigenic tests and self-tests,” confirms Pierre-Olivier Variot.

But “today more than ever, it’s complicated to keep up with the pace, we need hands,” insists the pharmacist. Because the sharp increase in screening does not concern PCRs, which have reached a ceiling. The explosion in demand is concentrated on antigenic tests done in town, 90% of which are carried out by pharmacists, ”he explains. And demand should not weaken knowing that the Prime Minister on Monday defended the French policy of massive tests, the abandonment of which would amount to “breaking the thermometer”. “Except that we only have our hands, no machines,” answers Pierre-Olivier Variot. So if we want to further increase our capacities, we need more hands. This is why we are proposing to set up ephemeral screening centers in pharmacies, since these are local places popular with patients. Centers that would operate with the help of other health professionals: doctors, nurses, physiotherapists or even midwives, ”he suggests.

For his part, Emmanuel Macron, if he hears “the weariness” of the French, called on Tuesday to continue their efforts: “I think we must all arm ourselves with a little patience, kindness , [pour] adjust things pragmatically ”.

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