After more than two years punctuated by the pandemic, France plunged again at the start of summer, like other European countries, into a new wave, carried by new sub-variants of the Omicron family, BA.4 and above all BA.5.
“We have a seventh wave with an even more transmissible variant than with the first Omicron”, underlined Friday Gilles Pialoux, head of the infectious and tropical diseases department at Tenon hospital (AP-HP), masked on the set of RMC/BFMTV.
On the one hand, an attack of these kinds of “stealth agents, which pass below the immune defenses” acquired by infection and / or vaccination, he noted. On the other, a weakened defense because many French people are “at a distance from the 3rd dose” and because the barrier measures are “close to zero” at the start of summer, a season of outdoor activities but also festive gatherings.
Result: a scenario that looks like deja vu.
“The circulation of SARS-CoV-2 continues to increase throughout metropolitan France, with an increase in new hospitalizations”, notes Public Health France in its weekly report.
Contaminations have been increasing for three weeks in all metropolitan areas and all age groups and now reach around 55,000 every day.
Two thirds of the cases in France are linked to the new subvariants of Omicron, especially BA.5 (41%).
At the hospital, hard hit by the pandemic and in structural crisis, the rebound remains moderate for the moment. An increase in admissions, especially among people aged 80 and over, is observed in critical care after several weeks of reduction and a week of stabilization, according to SPF.
– Second rappel –
How to limit this shade on the summer?
The anti-Covid vaccine shield of the most vulnerable must be reinforced without delay with the second booster. This is one of the main messages hammered home by the government and health authorities.
Only a quarter of eligible people received their second booster dose, a “clearly insufficient” rate, said the Ministry of Health, calling in particular on the oldest to receive the injection “as soon as possible”.
48% of nursing home residents and 31% of eligible over 80s had a second reminder.
Brigitte Bourguignon, 63 and still Minister of Health awaiting the post-legislative reshuffle, symbolically received hers on Thursday.
She called for “intensifying vaccination” of the over 60s and the immunocompromised concerned, “the most useful weapon”.
It is not yet planned to expand to the rest of the population. “Because the risk is very low. At the start of the school year, we will see”, according to Alain Fischer, president of the advisory board for the vaccine strategy.
Another “weapon” recalled by the minister: anti-viral treatments, such as Paxlovid.
Clearly relaxed since the lifting of all restrictions, barrier gestures are encouraged, with no return of constraints until now.
The mask, “it really must become a reflex” in each “risky situation”, urged Isabelle Bonmarin, of Public Health France, on Friday.
– Pass at the borders –
Several voices in the medical community, including that of Alain Fischer, on a personal basis, or of the federation of public hospitals, plead for a return to the compulsory mask in transport.
In the government, we appeal to “citizen responsibility”, “the idea is not to return to more restrictive measures for the moment”, summed up Brigitte Bourguignon. She did not rule out “other measures if necessary”.
If we must “consider a return of the mask in transport (…) we do not forbid ourselves anything”, assured Thursday the spokesperson, Olivia Grégoire.
According to a draft bill aimed at maintaining “a health monitoring and security system” until March 2023, the government plans to only use the health pass on arrival in France, Corsica and the Overseas.
However, this document does not provide for extending beyond July 31 the possibility of restoring the state of health emergency, nor a health or vaccination pass to restrict access to certain places or gatherings.
“The state of health emergency and the measures to end the crisis will end on July 31,” the minister’s office told AFP. “However, it is essential to remain very vigilant because the virus is still there. This text must therefore allow us to keep the tools essential for monitoring, managing the epidemic and protecting the French”.