The massive Covid-19 screening campaign organized in Saint-Etienne started on Wednesday under good auspices, with many residents coming to the dedicated test centers installed in the city.
“We are pleasantly surprised by the attendance of this first morning”, testifies Julie Gagnaire, doctor at the CHU and referent of the campaign.
Similar operations, carried out before the holidays in Le Havre (Seine-Maritime) and in the Ardennes, had aroused limited interest from the populations concerned. Another operation of the same type has been carried out since Monday in Roubaix (North).
Under a fine rain, several dozen people crowded from 10 a.m., in peace, in front of a pavilion of the Charité hospital, at the opening of the operation scheduled to last a week.
Forced to wait in the shelter of a small tent installed in front of the entrance, Gérald, a 39-year-old job seeker, has already carried out a test which had turned out negative before the end of year holidays.
“I was advised to start over, as I see quite a few friends,” he says.
A young retiree, surprised by the waiting time announced, prefers to turn around when she learns that she can come back by appointment.
“What exactly does it detect?”, She asks before leaving: “If I have the Covid? If I am asymptomatic? If I am contagious?”, She asks in the direction of a young woman Wearing a blue jacket in the colors of the Saint-Etienne CHU.
“Only if you are positive”, replies Eloïse de Saint-Denis, a third year medical student, who manages the queue and will devote two days to this operation.
She is one of the 300 medical students or nursing students mobilized over seven days, “also in the function of mediator, for which they received training, in order to explain the procedure to be followed to the people tested, according to the result obtained” , according to Pascale Mocaer, interim director of the Saint-Etienne CHU.
The manager reminded the journalists present that this site is mainly dedicated to welcoming people who do not show symptoms. Two of the fourteen screening centers set up for the occasion, however, are specially intended for potentially infected people.
To test the highest possible percentage of the 175,000 inhabitants of Saint-Etienne, the reception of the population continues without interruption until 7:30 p.m.
The campaign mainly uses the BioSpeedia antigen tests, designed in Saint-Etienne and produced in Lyon, PCR tests being reserved for suspected cases.
– More than an hour of waiting –
Noting that the candidates are mostly elderly, Dr. Gagnaire invites “young people, often asymptomatic but sometimes carrying a very high viral load, to come … Two weeks after the holidays, it is a good timing to do it”.
“Especially since the incidence rate, which is now 214 (per 100,000 inhabitants) locally, is on the way up,” she adds.
Nadège Grataloup, director of the Regional Health Agency (ARS) for the Loire notes for his part that “the waiting time may have exceeded an hour this morning on several of the test centers”. “This influx which pleases us will lead us to adjustments in the days to come.”
The mayor (LR) Gaël Perdriau, who came to attend the start of the operation, also said he was satisfied with the attendance: “Already 1,000 appointments have been made by internet or by phone, because the information has circulated well”.
“I proposed to the Minister of Health (Olivier Véran) that once the operation is over, we keep these facilities to practice vaccination, which will start tomorrow (Thursday) in the five municipal nursing homes”, adds the elected official. The Republicans.