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COVID-19 STATS

French Covid health pass ‘saved almost 4,000 lives’

France's Covid-19 health pass has saved almost 4,000 people's lives, eased the pressure on hospitals and helped to keep the economy afloat, according to a new report from an economic analysis group.

A woman in France prepares to receive a Covid vaccination.
A new study suggests that the French health pass has been highly effective in increasing vaccination rates, preventing deaths and boosting the economy. (Photo by CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP)

France’s Council of Economic Analysis, a group that advises the government, has produced a report on the impact of the health pass from its introduction on July 12th until the end of 2021 – and its headline finding is that the pass saved almost 4,000 lives.

The French health pass was introduced by the government in the summer of 2021 and its stated purpose was twofold; to stem the spread of the Covid pandemic and increase vaccination rates. 

To hold a valid health pass, French citizens must either have proof of full vaccination, proof of recent recovery from Covid or a negative PCR or antigen test taken within the past 24 hours. It is needed to access a wide range of venues such as restaurants, cafés, bars, cinemas, theatres, tourist venues, gyms, leisure centres and to use long-distance trains or visit health centres as a visitor or for non-emergency treatment.

A new study from the Council of Economic Analysis, an independent consortium of economists that advises the French Prime Minister’s office, has shown that the health pass has been a mighty success. 

The study refers to health passes as “Covid certificates”. 

“We estimate that the announcement of Covid certificates during summer 2021 led to increased vaccine uptake in France of 13.0 percentage points  of the total population until the end of the year,” write the authors. 

“Further, this averted an additional 3,979 (3,453‐4,298) deaths in France.” 

“Notably, the application of Covid certificates substantially reduced the pressure on intensive care units (ICUs) and, in France, averted surpassing the occupancy levels where prior lockdowns were instated.” 

This graph shows the estimated impact of the health pass on the vaccination rate (the percentage of the population who received at least one jab). The red shaded area is the 95 percent confidence interval. The black dashed vertical line is the date of the announcement of the health pass. Source: Conseil d’analyse économique

To estimate the impact of the health pass, the researchers had to model a “counterfactual” scenario in which the health pass was never introduced.

To do this, they imagined that the rate of vaccination continued at the same rate that it had done prior to the introduction of the health pass – as with any counterfactual, there is no guarantee that the proportional impact of the health pass indicated by this modelling is 100 percent correct. 

The authors argue that increased vaccination rates and other positive impacts engendered by the health pass prevented around 32,065 hospitalisations and 3,979 deaths in France. 

The claim that vaccination reduces fatality from Covid is backed by the country’s experience of the fifth wave, which has seen record numbers of new infections but a lower fatality rate than during previous waves

The researchers also estimated that the health pass had positive economic benefits. 

In France, they claim that the estimated weekly GDP growth from July to the end of 2021 was 0.6 percent higher with the health pass than it would have been without. 

Weekly GDP (3‐week rolling average) in the actual intervention deployment (blue) and in the no‐intervention counterfactual scenario (red). The red shaded area is the 95% confidence interval. The black dashed vertical line is the date of the announcement of the COVID certificate. Source: Conseil d’analyse économique
 

“Covid certificates may spur economic recovery in the short run, as newly vaccinated people can safely resume in‐ person economic activities, including working on‐site and consuming goods as well as services in brick‐and‐mortar businesses (direct effect),” write the authors. 

“Furthermore, an indirect effect results from avoiding restrictions, through public health measures, on social, education, and economic activities.” 

To calculate the economic impact of the health pass, the researchers used data from the OECD. 

The impact of the pass appears to be ongoing. Vaccination rates continue to climb in France where close to 80 percent of people have had at least one dose and the number of people who have received a booster dose is soaring – more than 40 percent of the total population have received a booster dose. 

This graph indicates the number of people who have received vaccinations in France. The dark blue represents those who received a booster dose, the medium shows ‘fully vaccinated’ people and the light blue shows partially vaccinated people. Source: CovidTracker

On Saturday, a change to the health pass came into effect mandating that all over 18s had to get a booster dose within seven months of completing their initial cycle of vaccination – or face having their health passes deactivated. This is likely the reason that the booster dose uptake has climbed significantly in recent weeks. 

The health pass will soon be transformed into a vaccine pass which means that holding a negative Covid test result will no longer serve as a condition for holding an active pass. This will probably drive the vaccination rate further. 

Tourists in France are also required to use the health pass, but do not currently require a booster dose for entry into the country

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Member comments

  1. I can’t believe people STILL think that the health pass / vaccine passport is a good thing.

    The Local states that the “purpose of these are twofold; to stem the spread of the Covid pandemic and increase vaccination rates”. Well, increasing vaccination rates is certainly true. I would use the words coerce, bully, force.
    But to stem the spread of covid? Oh come on! Washing your hands often, standing a little distance away from ill people, and using anti-bacterial sprays/gel is what will stem the spread. The vaccine passport itself won’t stop the spreading of covid.

    As usual, France is lagging behind Britain regards to dealing with covid. Macron’s awful dictatorial behaviour will be France’s downfall. Oh I bet the British are thanking God for Brexit.

    1. It also follows that if the Pass saved lives by increasing vaccination take-up, whatever / whoever caused the delay to the rollout of the vaccines in the first place and the undermining of confidence in those same vaccines , must have cost lives. True ?

      1. The UK Office of National Statistics reported yesterday that in at least 23% of recorded Covid deaths, Covid was incidental to the death rather than the cause of death. Currently, the 7-day rolling daily average of covid infection in the UK is one third that of France and it’s expected that all covid restrictions will be lifted this month. This was achieved without coercion.

    2. How did they arrive at the 4000 figure, more of that famous modelling hahaha. I don’t believe a single word that comes out of any governments mouth or their controlled media any more. It’s election time after all!

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COVID-19

EXPLAINED: Why Covid cases are rising again in France

France on Monday removed many of its remaining Covid rules, but even before that date case numbers were rising. So why is this happening? And is it something that we need to be worried about?

EXPLAINED: Why Covid cases are rising again in France

“Infections will rise again for 10 to 15 days,” Health Minister Olivier Véran told Franceinfo on Wednesday, two days after the country had done away with the vaccine pass and lifted mask rules in most areas.

“What the modelling of the Institut Pasteur tells us is that it will indeed go up until the end of March, we risk reaching 120,000 to 150,000 infections per day, and then we can expect a decrease,” he went on.

But he insisted the government had made the “right decision” in choosing to end most restrictions earlier than anticipated and in spite of an apparent epidemic rebound, saying “there is no risk of saturation of hospitals“.

So what’s happening?

Cases

Daily Covid numbers in France reached record highs in January, when an average of more than 366,000 new cases a day were recorded.

Current figures are well below that, but still high. On Tuesday, France reported more than 116,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours – a marked rise on the figure of 93,050 recorded the same day a week previously, and breaking the 100,000 barrier for the first time since mid-February.

The daily average figure – which irons out statistical quirks such as delayed reporting at weekends – is 65,143, a 25 percent increase on the previous week.

Map: Covidtracker.fr

“More than 50 percent” of new cases are due to the sub-variant of Omicron, BA.2, which is “more transmissible” but less severe, the Conseil scientifique said. 

Hospitalisations

The number of people being hospitalised with the virus has started ticking up again, after falling from a peak of 2,900 per day in early February. On March 13th, there were 973 new patients in hospital.

“High vaccination rates have made it possible to limit the hospital impact of these infections,” the Conseil said.

But about 4 million adult people remain unvaccinated and almost 5 million have not had a booster dose.

“The number of hospitalisations will increase temporarily in the coming weeks,” it added.

Admissions to intensive care and death rates both continue to decline, but usually any effect on these figures is not felt until at least two weeks after case numbers begin to rise.

European trend

France is not the only country that is seeing an uptick in cases, Germany, Austria, the UK, Belgium and Italy have all reported rises in recent days.

School holidays

Since the relaxation of the French rules only happened on Monday, it is clearly not the source of the increase.

Rather, regional variations in the spread of the virus indicates that schools reopening after the winter holidays has been a key driver of the latest rise in infections.

Schools in France are divided into three zones and take their February holiday at different times.

Guillaume Rozier, founder of the CovidTracker website, told AFP at the weekend. “The rise in cases is most apparent in northern France and along the Mediterranean coast, roughly corresponding to the areas where children returned to school earliest (on February 21st).”

Upticks in Covid figures have been spotted, too, in zones A and C, which returned to class later.

Spring

“The current cold climate remains an element that favours viral transmission. This should improve in the coming weeks with the arrival of the good weather,” says the Conseil scientifique.

As the weather improves and temperatures rise, socialising and activities tend to move outdoors, where the transmission risk is lower. This follows the pattern also seen in 2020 and 2021 when the virus receded in the summer, before returning in autumn.

Not a wave

“This rebound is not a wave,” says Véran. However he added: “The end of the obligation does not mean the end of vigilance. I invite French women and men to wear the mask in all circumstances which may expose them or those around them to the risk of infection.”

Institut Pasteur forecasts published on March 10th suggest that “in all the scenarios explored, the peak of cases [in March] remains much lower than the peak in January”. 

Experts are also confident that the combination of vaccinations and immunity because of previous infection will keep serious cases to a minimum.

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