Cannes Film Fest 2021: Event Launches With COVID Confusion and Tests That Require to Spit in a Tube

Cannes 2021: Festival Launches With COVID Confusion and Tests Requiring Spit in a Tube


In Cannes Fest this year, the saliva test will be the preferred method of checking for COVID by Biogroup, the lab hired to fight the spread of the virus that has (so far) killed 4 million people in the world. But while the process didn’t involve sticking a swab up her nostrils, it wasn’t so easy.

The annual Cannes Film Festival launches this week in sweltering July beach weather with formidable roster of directors, Spike Lee as the jury president, soon-to-be-unveiled couture and face masks.

For the first time since World War II, Cannes was canceled last year, due to COVID-19. While infection rates from the global pandemic have dipped as a result of massive vaccination efforts, the Delta variant has produced hot spots.

For Cannes that has led to new complications for a film festival that’s trying to make a comeback during the COVID era.

French laws require that those who gather indoors either must be vaccinated or show proof of a PCR test. But because of the limitations of an app that the French government uses that allows citizens to show they’ve been vaccinated, those coming to Cannes from countries outside of the European Union’s COVID-19 tracking system — including the United States, Canada, England and all of Asia — won’t have a transferable bar code to show they’ve been vaccinated.

The mandate has already led to confusion and complaints from festival-goers on the ground.

According to the latest rules, non-European attendees at Cannes will need to be tested for COVID every 48 hours to enter the Palais, the building where producers set up tables to market their films and stars enter through backdoors for press conferences.

France doesn’t require proof of vaccination inside movie theaters, so those attending screenings only will be exempt from these testing protocols.

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A plastic tube that collects spit for the PCR test

Saliva tests for COVID have been praised for their efficacy and efficiency, with some finding them less invasive than nose swabs. They require fewer technicians since those who are being tested can collect their own samples.

Hours before the festival’s launch, the scene at the makeshift COVID testing center just steps away from where Cannes movies premiere was the opposite of glamour. Festival attendees were handed a plastic container, along with a funnel where they were instructed to aim their spit, while standing behind a socially-distanced partition. Some missed, hitting the floor or their clothes.

“It has to be liquid,” a laboratory employee instructed. “Foam doesn’t count.”

There were audible sighs of frustration among those waiting in line when they realized just how much saliva the lab needed. Festival-goers who didn’t collect enough were sent back to spit some more.

Instructions from Biogroup: “It is recommended that you do not eat, drink, smoke or brush your teeth in the 30 minutes before the sampling.”

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The COVID-19 saliva testing guidelines.

Others praised the festival for creating a testing system that had short lines for now — and simple instructions for registering appointments online. Testing is free for Cannes badge holders, and results are ready within 6 hours.