The news of recent weeks, between elections and war in Ukraine, has relegated Covid-19 far from the spotlight and daily concerns. The virus continues to circulate, however, and is even on the rise again in France. The prospect of a seventh wave is becoming clearer.
Among our neighbours, Portugal suffered a new wave linked to the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants. In the UK, cases and hospitalizations have started to rise again. In Germany, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach made a sad observation last week:
The wave announced for the summer has unfortunately become a reality. The incidence rate rose to 472.4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
And in France ? Here too the number of cases has started to rise again since the beginning of June. The number of daily cases communicated by Public Health France has been difficult to interpret lately, due to the presence of public holidays and problems with seizures and catch-ups, which have made the curve particularly uneven.
49% increase in one week
By smoothing the daily cases over 7 rolling days, we obtain a slightly more readable average. As of June 20, there were an average of 46,146 daily contaminations over the last 7 days.
This indicator is increasing sharply. A week earlier, on June 13, there were 31,000 cases per day on average. The increase is 49%…
The arrival of a new wave does not seem obvious to you on the graph above? It may be a matter of scale, due to the January 2022 peak crushing the curve.
If we take a step back, and start the curve in July 2020, after the first wave in the spring and at the time of the generalization of the tests, we realize that the beginning of the current 7th wave is already reaching the peak level of autumn 2020:
During a press briefing this Tuesday, June 21, 2022, the Ministry of Health described the trend as
moderate epidemic recovery.
The current rise coincides with the extension in France of the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, which are sub-lineages of Omicron.
According to the Flash survey conducted at the end of May on the evolution of variants in France, the BA.2 variant of Omicron was still the majority in France (72% of interpretable sequences), but tended to be gradually replaced by BA.5.
The latter represented 24.2% of the interpretable sequences in week 23, against 13.3% the previous week.
Read also: Should we fear a wave of Covid this summer with the new Omicron variants?
A nationwide increase
According to consolidated data released on D + 3 by Public Health France, the national incidence rate was 459 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the period from June 10 to 17, 2022. This indicator is also up by 50%.
The increase is evident across France, with Île-de-France currently experiencing the highest levels:
Here is the evolution by department, the increase is general:
Small resumption of hospitalizations
The arrival of Omicron has changed our relationship to the epidemic and to public health measures. More contagious but less virulent than previous coronaviruses, it does not call for the same public health response as Alpha, Beta, Delta… It is for this reason that no restrictions have been taken while we are at 50,000 cases per day. The previous confinements, it should be remembered, had been triggered once the threshold of 5,000 cases per day had been crossed. It was 10 times less!
With Omicron and its variants, the compass is no longer directly the number of cases but the level of hospitalizations. In the immediate future, in France, there is no clear increase in hospitalizations for or with Covid-19 and intensive care placements:
However, according to data from Public Health France, the number of hospitalized patients is no longer falling. For the past three weeks, the number of new hospital admissions with a diagnosis of Covid-19 has increased again, from 2,441 in week 21 to 2,794 in week 23.
In the United Kingdom, the rise of the BA.5 subvariant was accompanied by a 33% increase in hospitalizations. In Portugal, the first European country affected by BA.5, the number of hospitalizations rose almost to the level of the previous wave.
However, comparisons with other countries should be made with caution. Mircea T. Sofonea, epidemiologist and lecturer at the University of Montpellier, reminds us that these comparisons are delicate,
because current circulation depends, in addition to the sanitary measures in place, on the epidemiological and immunological history, which is increasingly differentiated according to the country.
And the vaccination?
The epidemic recovery is currently qualified as
moderate by the Ministry of Health, but health authorities are concerned about the lack of second booster shots injected. Out of more than 8.8 million people eligible for a fourth dose (the over 60s and the immunocompromised), less than 2.2 million have carried out this second booster.
Professor Alain Fischer, President of the Vaccine Strategy Guidance Council, also noted Tuesday, June 21, 2022
a small recovery in hospitalizations. He underlined during a press briefing that the
significant decrease of the protection generated by the first reminder
fully justifies a new dose in the elderly for
protect them from serious forms until autumn.