Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020

Dawn patrol: Parisians queue in dark for COVID tests

PARIS (Reuters) – While most of the French capital was still asleep, Emilie Rabaron was sitting on the front step of a clinic, in the pre-dawn darkness, trying to beat the queues for a COVID-19 test.

FILE PHOTO: A man queues to take a PCR test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Paris, France, August 8, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

By arriving at 05:30, she had secured a place at the front of the queue and a chance of avoiding what could otherwise be a day-long wait to get tested.

But she still had a long wait ahead of her: the COVID testing at the clinic in Chelles, an eastern suburb of Paris, does not start until 10:00 a.m. Wrapped up against the morning chill in a jacket, she passed the time by reading a book.

“I know people who’d already come here, who were here at 5:30 am and there were already lots of people, so I came early,” Rabaron, from the nearby suburb of Neuilly-sur-Marne, said on Wednesday morning.

She said she wanted a test because she had been in contact with an infected person.

“I didn’t want to wait too long, bearing in mind that elsewhere there are queues where people wait for five or six hours. So that’s why I preferred to come early.”

In France, as in some other countries in Europe, the COVID-testing system has been under siege this month from patients worried they may be among the rising number of new infections.

Across Paris, long queues snake around the block from clinics that offer testing. People who manage to get tested often report having to wait several days for the result.

By the time dawn arrived in Chelles, Rabaron has been joined in the queue by around half a dozen people. Nadia Benyhia, a Chelles resident, came with her sister.

Their father is diabetic, and therefore vulnerable to COVID-19. They wanted to get tested to make sure they would not infect him with COVID.

“There are too many people, the queue is long, so that’s why we came at 6:00 a.m.,” she said.

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