Science

Covid-19 and new variants: Olivier Véran wants to “avoid an epidemic within the epidemic”

Understand the challenges of the moment, with its certainties and uncertainties, and understand what is the basis of the decisions that will be taken in the coming days“: this is the objective announced by Olivier Véran during his press conference on Thursday, January 28 at 2 p.m. Faced with the increase in the number of cases and the arrival of new variants of Covid-19, the Minister of Health ‘is preparing to enter into consultation with Prime Minister Jean Castex and other social actors.

An epidemic recovery weaker than in the fall, but worrying

While the question of a third confinement is on everyone’s lips, the Minister of Health Olivier Véran painted a quick picture of the epidemic resumption in this month of January 2021. “Strictly speaking, we are not in an epidemic wave, when the virus is spreading exponentially. But it’s circulating at a high level, and faster and faster every week“, he explains. A”rising tray“more than 20,000 cases per day, a figure that has increased by 10% every week since the beginning of January.

The effectiveness of the 6 p.m. curfew is “real“and”probably saved us from an epidemic resumption similar to that of some of our neighbors“, he underlines, but it remains”insufficient“. Since the start of 2021, hospital pressure has increased again with 250 patients admitted to intensive care in France every day, against 170 in December 2020. As a result, more than 27,000 patients have been hospitalized for Covid-19 in France, including 3,000 in intensive care, specifies Olivier Véran.

Vaccination in the face of variants: who will be faster?

If the situation does not appear as catastrophic as in the fall, since the advance of the epidemic is more gradual, two major parameters are of concern to the Minister. First, the vaccination of vulnerable people, which although accelerated, will take several months to protect vulnerable people given the availability of doses. The speed of vaccination is all the more crucial as the race is on with the second parameter: the arrival of variants of the virus in France. “Despite our best efforts, we have gone from 500 patients per day with the so-called ‘British’ variant at the start of January to more than 2,000 today“, explains the Minister of Health. More contagious,”they can cause a very strong epidemic wave, even more so than the initial Covid virus“, as is the case in England, Spain and Portugal, he adds.

Variants reshuffle the cards

These variants are the real crux of the problem: while the speed of vaccination must counterbalance that of contamination to protect those most at risk, these new versions of Covid-19 come to distort everything and could take the advantage. “We want to avoid an epidemic within the epidemic. These variants are a bit like new viruses, calling for new protective measures. ”

Measures have already been taken, with new multiplex PCR tests capable of differentiating between variants, and therefore healthcare professionals bring infected patients to their homes in order to test the family. On the effectiveness of vaccines, however, he said to himself “confident“. According to Pr Marie-Paule Kieny, infectious disease specialist and president of the scientific committee on the Covid-19 vaccine, the mRNA vaccines currently administered in France are effective on the English variant (VOC 2020, or 501.V1) On the other hand, its effectiveness could decrease compared to the South African variant (501.V2) and disappear compared to the Brazilian variant (P.1).

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