French virus testing labs under strain amid resurgent demand

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France’s COVID-19 resurgence is palpable in the buzzing biology lab of a public hospital in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil

ARGENTEUIL, France — France’s COVID-19 resurgence is palpable in the buzzing biology lab of this public hospital in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil.

Tube after tube arrive with new nasal swabs, now about 240 per day. And the lab director struggles to obtain enough reagents to keep up with escalating demand.

“Since Aug. 15, we’re seeing a constant increase in the number of positive patients,” Laurence Courdavault, head of the Argenteuil hospital’s medical biology department, said Friday.

“The staff is tired and in particular the technicians who work in this department. Honestly, they’re exhausted,” Courdavault told The Associated Press as she glided through the corridors of the sprawling 1990s-era complex 10 kilometers (six miles) northwest of Paris.

In a careful ballet accompanied by the quiet hum of machines, masked lab technicians disinfect, sort and label the samples with bar-code stickers, and robotic arms guide them through automated molecular platforms beneath tinted-glass hoods, used to reach into the samples’ genetic material.