France says fifth Covid wave hitting at ‘lightning’ speed

Medical staff walk past a room of a Covid-19 patient at the intensive care unit of the Centre hospitalier universitaire in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe
A high level of vaccinations appears, so far, to be keeping a lid on the number of Covid patients needing intensive care. (Photo by Carla BERNHARDT / AFP)
Fifth-wave coronavirus infections in France are rising at an alarming rate, the government reported Sunday, with new daily Covid cases close to doubling over the past week.

The seven-day average of new cases reached 17,153 on Saturday, up from 9,458 a week earlier, according to the health authorities, an increase of 81 percent.

“The fifth wave is starting at lightning speed,” government spokesman Gabrial Attal told media.

The above chart from Our World in Data shows the different peaks seen in France since the start of the pandemic.

The latest seven-day increase is three times the average rise of cases recorded over the previous three weeks, indicating an exponential acceleration of infections.

For now, the spike in infections has not led to a massive influx of Covid patients into hospitals, with the authorities attributing the limited number of intensive care patients to France’s high rate of vaccinations which appear highly effective against the most dangerous forms of Covid.

On Saturday, hospitals reported a total of 7,974 Covid patients in their care, with 1,333 of them in intensive treatment.

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This compares to 6,500 and 1,000, respectively, a month earlier.

“There is a very strong increase in infections, but we also know that in France we have very large vaccination coverage,” he said. “We seem to be ahead of our neighbours concerning booster shots.”

As of November 19th, 5,293,000 had had a booster shot – or around 8.1 percent of the population – according to the French Ministry of Health and Solidarity on Twitter.

In neighbouring Germany, meanwhile, 5,199,713 people – or around 6.2 percent – of the population had had a top-up vaccination as of November 19th.

READ ALSO: Who gets a Covid vaccine booster shot in France

France’s introduction of a health pass ahead of other countries in the summer was also helping to keep Covid in check, he said.

The health pass, required in French restaurants, cafes and many cultural venues, certifies that a person is fully vaccinated, has recently recovered from Covid, or has tested negative for the virus.

The government continues to stand by its choice to “bring the weight of restrictions to bear on non-vaccinated people rather than vaccinated people”, Attal said.

READ ALSO: France ‘can manage fifth Covid wave without extra restrictions’


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