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Coronavirus: Parts of France launch mass testing ahead of deconfinement

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Mass testing has been rolled out in a number of countries to fight the pandemic
Mass testing has been rolled out in a number of countries to fight the pandemic   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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Areas of France have launched mass COVID-19 testing campaigns in a new attempt to try to curb the pandemic before a relaxation of measures comes in ahead of the holidays.

The conurbations of Le Havre and Charleville-Mézières launched huge screenings on Monday, with officials pointing towards positive results from mass testing in cities in other countries, such as Liverpool in the UK.

In Normandy, 270,000 inhabitants have been invited to be tested over the next five days.

It will be "without an appointment and free of charge, with a result within half an hour", Mayor Edouard Philippe told the Journal du Dimanche.

"In Liverpool, they managed to test about a third of the 500,000 inhabitants in four days. If they tested 50% of the population, I would be the happiest man in the world. We will probably be below that," predicted the former Prime Minister.

"These operations are as much a means of limiting the propagation of the virus in the concerned communities as a lever of experimentation of our strategy", said the health minister, Olivier Véran, who launches the scheme today in Le Havre.

The number of cases in France is still way above where the government wanted them to be ahead of deconfinement.

At the end of October, president Emmanuel Macron wanted to reduce the numbers "eventually" to 5,000 contaminations per day nationally.

However, the daily average over the past week has been 12,000.

11,533 additional cases were recorded between Saturday and Sunday, according to French Public Health, which reported 150 deaths in the last 24 hours.

In the Ardennes, 123,000 inhabitants are being targeted for testing, in an area including the two main towns of the department, Charleville-Mézières and Sedan.

"Simply complying with health protocols will not be enough to stop the spread of the epidemic. It is out of the question that the end of the year festivities will generate a third wave which would be formidable for our territory", warned Ardenne Métropole.

The operation is scheduled until Friday, as well as from 21 to 23 and 28 to 30 December. Free and quick tests, “without appointment" are promised.

Two other territories are due to attempt the same operation in January, among those where the virus is circulating fastest in France: Roubaix (North) and Saint-Etienne.

For epidemiologists, testing on such a large scale is only useful if the results are used quickly, isolating those who test positive and limiting social contacts in the most affected areas.

The second lockdown is due to end on Tuesday, giving way to a curfew from 8 pm-6 am - Christmas Eve excepted.