Will this wave be a tsunami? At the start of summer, the cases of contamination are exploding again. More than 147,000 cases were recorded Tuesday evening by Public Health France, 54% more than a week earlier and at the highest level since the end of April.

This strong rebound, linked to the appearance of new sub-variants of Omicron which are particularly contagious and capable of circumventing immune defences, is widespread throughout Europe.

Most restrictions began to be lifted in mid-March. But on Tuesday, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne asked the prefects and health authorities to encourage the wearing of a mask “in crowded places” and “enclosed spaces”, in particular “public transport”.

So far, these are “recommendations”, without obligation.

Ms. Borne also called for “amplifying prevention messages”, such as “regularly airing enclosed spaces”, “testing yourself at the first symptoms and isolating yourself immediately if positive”.

Brigitte Bourguignon, still Minister of Health, had already asked the French on Monday to put the mask back on transport – which has not been compulsory since May 16 – “out of good citizenship”.

– On holiday trains –

On Wednesday, at the dawn of the first departures on vacation, the CEO of SNCF Jean-Pierre Farandou engaged, calling on travelers to wear the mask again in stations and trains, out of “civic sense”. “We must protect our staff, we must protect our travelers,” he said.

For the infectiologist Gilles Pialoux, head of department at the Tenon hospital (Paris), it is a “waiting measure compared to mass constraint measures”. “We should have used this time of relative calm to introduce prevention messages that go beyond the framework of the mask”, he regretted Wednesday on franceinfo.

The big question is, as always, whether the increase in contamination will result in an increase in hospitalizations.

In South Africa and, to a lesser extent, Portugal, which have already passed the wave, the impact in hospitals has been more limited than during previous peaks.

In France, 15,496 Covid patients were hospitalized on Tuesday, including 898 in critical care.

Even if the hospital wave turns out to be less than before, it arrives in summer and against a backdrop of persistent crisis. “My major concern is that between mid-July and mid-August, we end up with a dilapidated hospital, unable to take care of patients, including outside Covid, with emergencies closed at least partially”, declares to the AFP Olivier Guérin, head of the geriatrics center at the Nice University Hospital and member of the scientific council.

In his eyes, “if the figures slip”, it would not be unthinkable that “a little constraint” would come back.

– Booster doses –

Faced with the rise in cases, governments and scientists insist on the interest of booster doses.

Because if the protection of vaccines decreases over time in the face of infection, they remain effective against the risk of serious forms.

The Prime Minister asked Tuesday that everyone “check their vaccination schedule”, especially those over 60 and the most fragile. They must receive “in the coming days awareness emails” from Health Insurance.

A quarter of eligible people have received their second booster shot against Covid, a “clearly insufficient” rate, the government estimated last week.

“The third dose was recommended in April, when the virus was starting to wane. Now that it is increasing significantly, I think the population over 60 understands that you should not miss more than six months after the last recall”, said Wednesday on Radio Classique Anne-Claude Crémieux, infectious disease specialist at Saint-Louis hospital (Paris).

A crucial reminder, especially in nursing homes, “especially since it is effective 72 hours later”, insisted Olivier Guérin.

At the same time, the executive is working on a new bill, which must be presented and examined in July, to maintain “a monitoring and health security system” until March 2023.