SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19 STATS

‘Peak has passed’ as France lifts Covid restrictions

France on Wednesday loosened several of the restrictions imposed to curb the latest Covid surge, with authorities hoping a recent decline in daily cases will soon ease pressure on overburdened hospitals.

'Peak has passed' as France lifts Covid restrictions
Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

The move has divided experts after authorities reported record coronavirus infections just last month, with critics accusing the government of making a hasty bet on a return to normality.

But President Emmanuel Macron is betting that widespread vaccinations will curb the pandemic, with proof of inoculation now required for the health pass used to access everything from bars and restaurants to cinemas and long-distance public transport.

The government says more than 90 percent of adults are vaccinated, and booster shots or proof of recovery from Covid will be required to retain the new vaccine pass — a recent negative test result is no longer accepted.

From Wednesday, wearing face masks outdoors will no longer be mandatory, and audience capacity limits have been lifted for theatres, concerts, sporting matches and other events. Working from home is also no longer required, though it remains strongly recommended.

READ ALSO What changes on Wednesday as Covid restrictions lift 

A second stage of easing is set for February 16th.

CALENDAR When France’s Covid restrictions are lifted

Authorities view the threat of the Omicron variant as less dangerous than previous strains of the virus, even though it is more contagious.

“We have seen a weak reversal of the trend over the past few days, with fewer cases declared each day than seven days earlier,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told France Info radio on Tuesday.

An average of 322,256 cases were recorded over the previous seven days, according to latest figures, down from 366,179 a week ago.

Attal called it a “very encouraging signal” but said officials “remain cautious” because of a “very contagious” sub-variant of Omicron, BA.1, that appears to have delayed the peak of infections in other countries.

France also still has some 3,750 Covid patients in intensive care, above the government’s target of 3,000, and on average the country is seeing 261 Covid deaths at hospitals every day.

The Paris region of Ile-de France, which was the first area to start reporting large numbers of Omicron cases, is showing a clear decline as case numbers, as seen in the below graph by journalist Nicolas Berrod, with Ile-de-France in red.

Across France as a whole (the dotted line) the fall is less pronounced as many areas are still reporting rising case numbers.

The below map from Le Parisien shows the areas where the incidence rate is falling (in blue) and rising (in yellow, orange and red).

“We’ve clearly passed the peak, we hope the decline will be quick. But we’re coming from stratospheric levels, so this wave is still far from over,” the epidemiologist Mahmoud Zureik told French daily Le Parisien on Wednesday.

As of Tuesday, France had recorded 131,312 Covid deaths since the beginning of the outbreak.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

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. 

SHOW COMMENTS