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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?
A tourist bus drives past a Covid-19 testing tent along the Champs-Elysees in Paris July 1st. (Photo by AFP)

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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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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