French Supermarkets Now Allowed to Sell COVID Tests to Meet Rising Demand

French officials announced Friday supermarkets can sell self-testing COVID-19 kits through the month of January to help residents secure home tests, previously only available at pharmacies.

Milovan Stankov-Pugès, co-founder and CEO of French start-up NG Biotech, said previously French legislation limited the distribution of home tests.

"In the face of necessity, everyone broke down the barriers and was pragmatic and arranged things so the easiest tools to use could also be used at home," said Stankov-Pugès.

NG Biotech, a test-kit manufacturer in western France's Brittany region, started recruiting more employees to meet the rising demands of the expanded production, which has already grown during the pandemic, now manufacturing tests during the day and night.

"It has been like a hurricane," said Stankov-Pugès.

Over the past week, France recorded more than 200,000 new cases per day. Some French laboratories are even running low on reactive agents needed for PCR tests, and rationing their use.

Despite the country having one of the world's most-vaccinated populations, the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise. The surge led French officials to ease guidelines so health care workers infected with the virus to remain on the job provided they are asymptomatic or showing limited symptoms. However, medical facilities such as hospitals and elderly care facilities are still facing staff shortages.

While the government is hoping the surge won't hit hospitals, medical personnel are prepared for patient surges, according to the Associated Press.

French Supermarkets COVID-19 Tests
French supermarkets can sell self-testing COVID-19 kits as COVID-19 numbers rise. A laboratory staff wearing Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) checks details on samples collected for Covid-19 coronavirus testing as part of Project Ummeed, a public-private initiative dealing with large scale Covid-19 RT-PCR tests available for low-income households, at the Metropolis Healthcare Ltd. diagnostic centre in Mumbai on September 16, 2020. - Coronavirus infections in India soared past five million on September 16, as a WHO envoy warned the pandemic was "still at the beginning". INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

Schools in France are distributing home test kits to children, to try to slow rampaging infections so classes can stay open. The government has softened self-isolation rules, trying to limit the disruption to the economy and essential services by allowing people to return to work faster after testing positive. The fully vaccinated can now break quarantine after five days with a negative test and no symptoms.

Securing tests has become a battle, sometimes with long lines and hour wait-times.

Before the sweep of the delta and then the omicron variant prompted governments in Europe and elsewhere to bring back unpopular restrictions and roll out vaccination boosters, NG Biotech was producing around 500,000 tests per month.

The company ramped up to more than 2.5 million tests delivered in December and is now scaling up again with the aim of soon reaching 5 million per month, Stankov-Pugès said.

"This is a 10-times increase in only three months," he said. "This wave took everyone by surprise."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.