Covid: an eighth wave is looming in France

Posted Sep 16, 2022 2:20 PMUpdated on Sep 16, 2022 at 2:42 PM

“The most likely scenario is that of an epidemic peak at the start of the school year. The warning had been issued in mid-August by Brigitte Autran, who had just been appointed president of the Committee for monitoring and anticipating health risks.

The current data proves him right. For several days now, contaminations have been on the rise again in France, after several weeks of improvement in the epidemic situation.

First increase in eight weeks

In early September, and for the first time in eight weeks, the incidence rate started to rise again in France, and this in most metropolitan areas. It reached 186 cases per 100,000 inhabitants between September 5 and 11, against 166 cases per 100,000 inhabitants the previous week, an increase of 12%, reports Public Health France in its weekly update.

The number of cases identified each day is also increasing. Thursday, 33,263 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded, against 19,866 a week earlier, a jump of more than 67%. Another indicator, the reproduction rate of the virus - called R - rose again last week above 1, after two consecutive months below. As a reminder, an R greater than 1 means that an affected person in turn infects more than one, and therefore that the epidemic is progressing.

Two combined phenomena explain this recovery. A certain immune decline in the population is particularly highlighted, in people who have been infected, as in those who received their last vaccine several months ago. This is all the more true as protection against infection erodes over time.

More frequent reinfections

In addition, reinfections are more frequent since the arrival of Omicron. Since March 2021, 94.8% of possible cases of reinfections – for which screening was available – are suspected Omicron variants, notes Public Health France. This variant circulates almost exclusively in France, and its BA.5 sub-lineage is ubiquitous.

Back to school, school and work, could also have an impact on contamination. It promotes more mixing. The increase in contamination is also “mainly driven by those under 20”, starting with 0-9 year olds (+ 111% the week of September 5 to 11), notes Public Health France.

This situation is far from unprecedented. In 2021, while the Delta variant was already at the origin of a summer wave, the start of the school year had been at the origin of an autumn wave.

Bivalent vaccines in sight

However, the impact of this new wave is difficult to assess for the moment. The number of new hospitalizations is still falling. However, a lag of a few weeks has been systematically observed, since the start of the pandemic, between the increase in contamination and its consequences on the hospital system.

Hence the importance of accelerating vaccination, especially among the most vulnerable people. But as of September 13, only 28.3% of people aged 60-79 and 36.1% of people aged 80 and over had received their second booster dose. Public Health France also calls for maintaining the application of barrier gestures, including wearing a mask in the presence of fragile subjects, or in closed spaces.

Within a few weeks, bivalent vaccines – targeting both the original strain of the virus and the Omicron variant – will also be available in France. The High Authority for Health will specify at the beginning of next week the articulation of these new vaccines with the French vaccination strategy.

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