Poitiers, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Lyon or even Besançon, the academies of zone A, took over the school on February 22. With this re-entry began the screening by saliva test in primary and kindergarten classes.

Why deploy such a campaign in schools?

Massive screening in communities such as schools aims to identify any epidemic upsurge and avoid an outbreak of cases linked to the proliferation of variants of the coronavirus, which is more contagious than the old variant.

It is therefore to strengthen the “Test, alert, protect” strategy that the government announced the deployment of saliva tests as of February 4. The High Authority of Health (HAS) then gave the green light to this screening campaign by issuing a favorable opinion for this device on February 11.

Read also: Covid: which screening tests to use against variants?

Are these saliva tests mandatory?

No, these tests are not compulsory. They are carried out on a voluntary basis.
In practice, only children whose parents have signed a written agreement can be tested.

How are they made?

Saliva tests conducted in schools are done by collecting sputum in a tube. They are therefore less painful and easier to perform than the nasopharyngeal swab test. They are therefore more suitable for children.

For the little ones, especially in kindergarten, the saliva sample can be taken directly in the mouth, using a pipette.

The saliva sample is then sent to the laboratory within five hours of collection. PCR analyzes are then carried out to detect the possible presence of the coronavirus genome.

Are they effective?

These tests are not so-called rapid tests, the results of which are available in about 30 minutes. Here, the results are delivered in a maximum of 24 hours. But if they are longer, they are also much more reliable than rapid tests.

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However, they are a little less reliable than PCR tests using nasopharyngeal samples, which remain the benchmark in terms of covid screening. According to the HAS, the sensitivity of PCR tests using saliva samples is “estimated at 85%, which is slightly lower (3% to 11%) than that of PCR tests on nasopharyngeal swab, but remains above the thresholds set by the HAS to validate the tests “.

What happens if the result is positive?

If a child tests positive for covid, they will need to stay home for 10 days. His parents will be considered as a contact case and must therefore also respect a seven-day isolation at home.

At the level of the class, a closure is imposed if at least three students are positive for the covid.

For the first week of the launch of this device, the government hopes to carry out 80,000 saliva tests in schools. Figures that will increase from March 1 when students in zone C will return to school and then from March 8 for students in zone B. Government objective: to reach 200,000 tests per week in schools across France.