With winter approaching, France has “officially” entered its eighth wave of Covid-19. Over 50,000 daily cases have been confirmed and French health officials are considering whether to once again impose masks in public places and transport.
The Health Ministry warned last month that a new wave was imminent after cases jumped by 55.5%. The figures from the Health Ministry and health authority Santé publique France show the daily average of contagion at around 17,000 and rising.
The situation in France reflects the resurgence of the epidemic brewing in Europe as cooler weather arrives, “with public health experts warning that vaccine fatigue and confusion over types of available vaccines will likely limit booster uptake,” Reuters explains.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has reported that fifteen countries in the region are reporting increasing cases with the highest new infection rates in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Latvia and Liechtenstein.
Behind most of the cases is the Omicron subvariants BA.4/5 that dominated this summer but the World Health Organization is tracking many new subvariants that are gaining ground.
According to its most recent data, the number of cases in the European Union reached 1.5 million last week, up 8% from the prior week as the number of hospitalizations across the member nations and Britain continue to mount.
“In the week ended October 4, Covid-19 hospital admissions with symptoms jumped nearly 32% in Italy, while intensive care admissions rose about 21%, compared to the week before, according to data compiled by independent scientific foundation Gimbe,” Reuters report.
Although ECDC launched new vaccine campaigns with Omicron-adapted formulas addressing subvariants alongside first-generation vaccines, the rate of vaccination is lower—between 1 million and 1.4 million in September, compared with 6-10 million per week during the year-earlier period, ECDC data shows.
According to data from the British Office for National Statistics (ONS), about one in 65 people in England—an estimated 1,105,400 individuals—had Covid at the end of September.
The perception that the pandemic is over, creating a false sense of security, is among the causes for the lowest interest in vaccination. Some experts blame governments for being ill prepared for the autumn/winter season, along with spreading social media campaigns by anti-vaccine movements.
The Covid-19 pandemic still seems far from over, writes Le Progres, “At the start of autumn, the contamination figures in France are soaring, specially among young people.”
“All the indicators are on the up,” Brigitte Autran, a leading health official and president of Covars, the Committee for Monitoring and Anticipating Health risks in France, told the agency.
She also announced that the committee is considering the possibility of making the use of masks compulsory again in certain spaces, “with different models.”
“The incidence rate — number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants — was 293 per 100,000 inhabitants, an increase of 57% last week compared to the additional 12% reported the previous week,” Public Health France acknowledged. It’s more extended among children aged under 10, which is thought to be linked to September’s return to school.“The increase in contamination is mainly driven by those under 20,” the institution said.
Same as last year
This is not an unprecedented situation, according to Le Point. “At this same time in 2021, with the return to school, the Delta variant, which had also caused a summer wave, had returned to trigger an autumn/winter wave.”
The majority of the current cases are from sub-variants of the Omicron strain BA5, which are more contagious but generally less virulent.
“It seems that the current dominant sub-variant of Omicron, BA.5, which hit Europe this summer, has been spreading again since the start of the school year and is progressing in all regions of metropolitan France (except Corsica), and in almost all Western European countries,” the magazine reports.
An expected wave
“Incidence rates have begun to rise again with the beginning of the school year, but the impact of this new episode is hard to predict,” wrote Le Monde.
“This eighth wave has indeed been expected for a long time. The last two years have shown the seasonality of the coronavirus, whose circulation favors the arrival of the cold seasons.”
The fall wave “was inevitable,” Giles Pialoux, head of the infections and tropical diseases at Tenon hospital in Paris told the paper and enumerated several factors: “all the elements that reinforce social interactions in closed places, the increase in time since the last vaccine injection, and the insufficient vaccine coverage for the second boost.”
The Health Minister François Braun explained that the government is following “the potential evolution of this epidemic” and recommended people in France “to take responsibility,” and think about bringing back their social distancing and hygiene measures where appropriate.
Currently, mask-wearing is not mandatory in outdoor public areas, nor on different public transport means. Mask-wearing is recommended only for vulnerable people accessing indoor places and large gatherings, Schengenvisainfo reports.
“It is believed that the rules continue to remain relaxed as the majority of the population has already completed vaccination.”
The ECDC shows that France has administered a total of 153,347,334 coronavirus vaccines as of September 22. According to ECDC, 92.2% of the entire adult population in France have already completed primary vaccination, 74.7 % have received the first booster shot, and 11.6 % have taken the second booster shot.
ECDC has recommended that all member countries start offering newly-authorized and adapted vaccines to support the planning of vaccination campaigns for autumn and winter.
The health institution has urged that boosters be directed first to people over the age of 60, vulnerable people with underlying conditions, pregnant women and the immunocompromised.
The new COVID-19 wave looming on the European continent could signal what’s to come for the United States.
The CDC has reported the rise of virus levels in various regions of the country including the Northeast and Midwest.