MAP: How France’s Covid-19 second wave exploded in just one month

These maps reveal the extent and speed of the Covid-19 second wave in France in recent weeks.

MAP: How France's Covid-19 second wave exploded in just one month
Dark blue means high level of Covid-19 spread. Photo: Santé Publique France screen grab

On Sunday October 25th France recorded a new grim record of over 52,000 positive Covid-19 infections in just one day.

It was confirmation, if it was even needed, that the infection rate in France had rocketed in recent weeks and forced the government to consider new restrictions and perhaps even a return to confinement.

The explosion of the second wave has taken the government and health chiefs by surprise. The speed at which the epidemic has made a resurgence can be seen in detailed maps.

Since the final week of September, Santé Publique France has published an interactive map that shows the Covid-19 infection rate in each of France's 35,014 municipalities.
The incidence or infection rate corresponds to the number of confirmed new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the preceding seven days.
Late September, between the 24th and 30th that month, the situation in France looked like this:

Photo: Screen grab Santé Publique France

Back then, most areas were coloured white, which meant they had registered incidents rates below 10, which is low enough for them not to be considered at high risk for Covid-19 spread. 

Towns and cities coloured light blue had an incidence rate between 10 and 20, which is not seen as alarming either, but a warning sign that the virus is spreading with increased pace.

The slightly darker blue tone refers to incident rates between 20 and 50, while mid blue means between 50 and 150, and the near-darkest blue tone between 150 and 250.

Areas coloured dark blue on the map had an incidence rate above 250, which is one of the thresholds the government has set for an area to tip into maximum alert level, which leads to new restrictions and a 9pm evening curfew.

One week later, between October 1st and October 7th, the dark blue areas had expanded.

Photo: Screen grab Santé Publique France

One week after that, between October 8th and October 14th, this was the situation:

Photo: Screen grab Santé Publique France

Between October 15th and October 21st a lot more of the country had turned dark blue.

Photo: Screen grab Santé Publique France

The newest version of the map is based on data between October 22nd and October 26th, and has few white spots left.

France on October 26th counted 17,761 Covid-19 hospital patients, a number that has soared over the same time period as the one shown in the map, and is growing with increasingly rapid pace.

In the last week of October hospitals in France were admitting over 2,000 new Covid-19 patients every day, up from 1,133 on October 14th, 789 on October 7th, 650 on September 30th.

The graphic below shows the development of the total number of hospital patients in France since late March.

These numbers are especially worrying because hospital admissions and intensive care admissions do not increase simultaneously.

“When hospital numbers increase, we know that this leads to an increase in intensive care admissions within 15 days,” virologist Catherine Hill told French media.

Intensive care rates best indicate the gravity of the Covid-19 situation in the country, because they are the last ones to rise before deaths. France also has a limited number of intensive care beds (5,800 in total, up from 5,100 in March).

READ ALSO: Can France's intensive care units cope with the Covid-19 second wave?

France on October 26th counted 2,761 intensive care patients, however the number is growing with increasingly rapid pace.

Hospitals admitted 135 new patients into intensive care wards on September 30th, 143 on October 7th, 193 on October 14th, 284 on October 21st and 357 on October 26th.

Hill is one of several academics who has said he government must take drastic measures urgently to reverse the trend before it's too late.

“It is extremely urgent to confine the country. Failing to do so would guarantee that we run straight into the wall,” she said.




Member comments

  1. this was not in “just one month”. If you observe the numbers from august, you see it was already exponential back then. Now we are at a later stage of exponential, which just hurts faster.

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‘Serious malfunctions’ at French research unit headed by Didier Raoult

A criminal investigation is set to begin into the Marseille research unit headed by controversial scientist Didier Raoult, after a report found "serious malfunctions".

'Serious malfunctions' at French research unit headed by Didier Raoult

The findings of the joint investigation into the IHU at Marseille by the Inspection générale des affaires sociales (IGAS) and the  l’Inspection générale de l’éducation, du sport et de la recherche (IGESR) prompted Health Minister François Braun and Research Minister Sylvie Retailleau to refer the unit to the city’s public prosecutor, urging it to investigate “serious malfunctions” at the institution.

Raoult was head of the unit from its foundation in 2011 until his retirement this summer.

The controversial microbiologist gained significant worldwide attention during the Covid-19 pandemic for his vociferous promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, despite a lack of evidence on its effectiveness.

READ ALSO Five minutes to understand: Whatever happened to French professor Didier Raoult?

He was succeeded as director by Pierre-Edouard Fournier.

The ministers said that a number of issues highlighted in the latest report are “likely to constitute offences or serious breaches of health or research regulations”.

Fournier, and the institute’s seven founding members – including the University of Aix-Marseille, Assistance Publique-Hospitals de Marseille, the Research Institute for Development or the army health service – will now be summoned by their supervisory bodies to “implement a proactive action plan as soon as possible” which “will condition the continuation of the activity of the IHU-MI and its funding by the State”, according to the joint communiqué of the ministers.

The IHU was already under judicial investigation for “forgery in writing”, “use of forgery in writing”, and “interventional research involving a human person not justified by his usual care without obtaining the opinion of the committee for the protection of persons and the authorisation of the Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé (ANSM),” the Marseille prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

In an earlier report, the ANSM had noted “serious breaches of the regulations for research involving humans”, during some clinical trials.

READ ALSO Maverick French Covid doctor reprimanded over ‘breaches’ in clinical trials

François Crémieux, the director of Marseille public hospitals, told local newspaper La Provence on Tuesday that the establishment “shares the observation of managerial excesses of certain hospital-university managers occupying key functions within the infectious diseases division”.

“The legitimacy of the IHU has been affected. It has lost its scientific credibility. It must now be regained. 800 highly skilled professionals work there every day,” he added.

Raoult bit back at the report in a tweet, saying: “I regret that the IGAS/IGAENR mission does not take into account the detailed legal and scientific response that I have provided”.

Separately, Raoult will be in court on Friday as his defamation case against Karine Lacombe, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sorbonne University Faculty of Medicine, comes before judges.