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COVID-19 STATS

French health minister: 5% of hospitalised Covid patients have fake health pass

As France continues to battle rising Covid case numbers, the great majority of those who end up in intensive care with the virus are unvaccinated - but according to the health minister, a startling number of them also have fake health passes.

A doctor working in a hospital in France
A doctor working in a hospital in France, which is currently experiencing record Covid rates. (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP)

As part of the law to turn France’s health pass into a vaccine pass, the government has introduced tougher sanctions for people using fake health passes – there are thought to be more than 180,000 people using them in France at the moment. 

“Fake health passes kill, that is the reality,” said French Health Minister, Olivier Véran. 

READ MORE French MPs approve creation of a vaccine pass

Speaking in the French parliament, he told MPs that five percent of all hospitalised patients in France held a fake health pass, suggesting that they were either completely unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated. 

There is a scientific consensus that even though full vaccination plus a booster shoot doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get Covid, it does limit the chances that you will fall seriously ill from the virus. And the stats back this up. 

What does hospital data tell us about the efficiency of vaccines?

According to the most recent public data set, which was published by the health ministry back in December, non vaccinated people were 38.22 times more likely that people who were fully vaccinated with a booster jab, to be hospitalised after receiving a positive Covid test result.

Unvaccinated people made up 62.1 percent of people in intensive care who had tested positive for Covid, despite making up just 22.4 percent of the population (all ages) by December 19th. 

A more recent, although unofficial, survey found that 80 percent of people in intensive care for Covid were unvaccinated. In one hospital in Marseille, doctors claim that 90 percent of all intensive care patients are unvaccinated. 

Véran, speaking in a press conference on December 27th, said that 80 percent of Covid patients in intensive care were unvaccinated, and of the remaining 20 percent, almost 90 percent had compromised immune systems.

READ MORE How to get a Covid-19 booster dose appointment in France

According to official figures from December, unvaccinated people were four times more likely to die from Covid than people who had been vaccinated and received a booster dose. In reality, this statistic doesn’t adequately reflect the power of vaccines because by mid-December, it was mostly over 65s who had received booster doses. 

The graph below shows the number of hospital deaths on December 19th of people who were completely unvaccinated (far right), versus people who have had a full course of vaccination (the three columns represent various levels of time passed since the patient received a booster dose.

Despite the evidence in favour of vaccination, around five million people over the age of 12 are still unvaccinated in France. 

The imminent implementation of a vaccine pass – and heavier sanctions for those who use fake health passes, is the government’s strategy to increase vaccine coverage. 

READ MORE What will change when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass?

The elderly 

The table below demonstrates the number of people admitted into hospital (in blue) and intensive care (in yellow) with Covid in the weeks leading up to the end of 2021. Clearly older people, from about the age of 60 upwards, are significantly more likely to need hospitalisation and intensive care following infection.

Source: Santé publique France

Over the past few weeks, the government appears to have made significant progress in vaccinating the over 80s, who had been significantly lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to vaccination. 

If you are over 80-years-old, or know someone over 80, and would like to arrange a home-visit vaccination, you can call the government’s helpline on 0800 730 957. The line is open everyday from 6am to 10pm and can also be used to arrange free transport to and from a vaccination site.

Immunodeficient people 

Immunodeficient people, including transplant patients, those using immunosuppression medication and people with auto-immune conditions, are another group that are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 – even if they are fully vaccinated and have received a booster shot. 

According to Le Monde, the intensive care units of some hospitals in France are 30 percent full of immunodeficient Covid patients. Throughout the pandemic, patients’ associations of immunodeficient people have been calling on the government to maintain remote working rules, arguing that to remove such rules was discriminatory. 

There are around 230,000 immunodeficient people in France. 

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COVID-19 STATS

How bad will France’s Covid-19 summer wave be and could there be new restrictions?

Daily Covid-19 cases in France topped 200,000 on Tuesday as infections rise sharply. Here is what we can expect for the seventh wave of the pandemic in the country.

How bad will France's Covid-19 summer wave be and could there be new restrictions?

France has seen a huge increase in the number of Covid-19 infections in recent days.

The country was reporting an average of 100,000 cases per day as of July 2nd but by Tuesday July 5th the daily case count had topped 200,000.

Hospital admissions and admissions into intensive care are also on the rise, but the number of Covid-related deaths has not risen. 

Here is what you can expect for the coming weeks:

Cases to continue rising – For the moment the number of cases is expected to continue growing sharply, with variants BA.4 and BA.5 currently representing over 75 percent of cases in France.

However, even though infections continue to rise sharply (around 60 percent up on last week), the rate of growth appears to be slowing in recent days, accoridng to French data scientist and founder of the Covid Tracker website Guillaume Rozier.

“This [current] stability in cases is an encouraging sign, because the number of cases had been increasing for the past month. There is usually about a three week lag between the peak in cases and the peak in deaths deaths. We still have to be cautious and wait for another week and a half,” said Rozier in one of his regular Twitter threads.

In contrast to the peak of infections during the fifth wave last winter, which saw over 500,000 cases reported a day, this wave is currently seeing an average of 100,000 cases per day, though the peak has not yet been reached. 

If you test positive while in France, here is a guide of what to do.

READ MORE: French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

Likely peak in late July – The seventh wave may reach its peak by the end of July in France, estimated Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, the president of the Scientific Council, on June 30th. The wave is likely to continue being fuelled by Omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and notably BA.5.

Regarding the number of hospitalisations, Marc Lavielle, a professor and researcher with the French National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology explained that we are “in a fairly steady pattern of exponential growth,” meaning that the “number of hospital admissions doubles every two weeks or so.”

This represents a much slower pace than at the beginning of the epidemic, when the number doubled in only three days. However, Lavielle warned that without restrictive measures the increase could accelerate. Deaths are currently at about 40 per day, but it is important to note that the deaths usually lag infections by three weeks.

In comparison to the end of June in 2021, only 22,000 cases were detected per day, whereas this summer saw around 70,000 per day at the end of June. Nevertheless, this wave has so far seen a lower number of admissions into critical care than last summer’s wave that was fuelled by the more dangerous Delta variant.

The severity of this variant and wave – So far, symptoms associated with this current wave are “standard for Omicron,” while the duration of symptoms seems to last a bit longer. Currently there is no data showing variants BA.4 and BA.5 are more dangerous than other variants in Omicron family, though evidence shows they are spreading faster. Mortality is also not higher than other variants based on current data.

“The main symptoms associated with BA.5 are fairly standard for Omicron: fatigue, cough, fever and headache. However, the likelihood of experiencing loss of taste or smell is higher than with BA.2,” explained Yannick Simonin, virologist and researcher at the University of Montpellier. He added that infected people also seem to be experiencing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea at higher rates.

The duration of symptoms for BA.5 appears to be closer to seven days, rather than four days, which was common for previous Omicron sub-variants. 

Ultimately, there is “currently no field data showing this sub-variant is more lethal than others in the Omicron family.” 

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

How concerned should we be?

Based on observations from countries who have already experienced a BA.5 wave, like Portugal and South Africa, so far this wave has not caused a serious over-saturation of hospitals. H

However, there has still been significant increases in hospitalisations due to large number of cases. Therefore, experts recommend staying vigilant by wearing masks in enclosed spaces and crowded areas, as well as getting a second booster if eligible. So far, only 31 percent of over 80s have received their second booster shot. 

No return of health pass in metropolitan France.?

The president of the National Assembly announced over the weekend that France’s Covid-19 health pass, rolled out in the summer of 2021 to allow vaccinated individuals entry to bars and restaurants or cinemas, will not be renewed on August 1st.

Lawmakers are set to go over the bill concerning the country’s health security on Monday, July 11th, which is likely to extend some “essential provisions to face the continuation of the Covid-19 epidemic,” according to government spokesperson Olivier Véran.

Thus, there is a possibility that the health pass will be reinstated for border crossings, which would affect France’s overseas territories and Corsica. However, officials have clarified that the health pass will not be renewed in metropolitan France, despite the seventh wave. 

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