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COVID-19

France says fifth Covid wave hitting at ‘lightning’ speed

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.

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)

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.

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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HEALTH

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”

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