Covid-19 in France: here are some reasons to be optimistic about the continuation of the epidemic

By Olivier Saint-Faustin
Posted on 01/19/2022 at 18:15
Updated on 01/20/2022 at 9:39 am

More than 460,000 positive cases were recorded on Tuesday, but several indicators seem to indicate that the end of the tunnel is (perhaps) not far away.

Reading the record of positive cases registered on Tuesday night, with 464,769 patients in 24 hours, it is difficult to be optimistic about the future of the Covid-19 epidemic in France. And yet, several indicators encourage this to be the case, and the horizon seems to be clearing.

On Monday, Arnaud Fontanet, member of the Scientific Council, estimated that “the worst scenario is moving away” and that “the peak of infections has passed these days, at least in Île-de-France”. On Tuesday, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said there are “reasons for optimism today.” Is the fifth wave starting to wane? Decoded.

Stabilization on pulleys

The main indicator of the evolution of the epidemic in France, the incidence rate remains very high, with 3,063 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to CovidTracker. But a ray of hope has appeared in recent days: in Île-de-France, the first region hit by Omicron, the incidence has been falling continuously since January 9, when it had reached 4,118. On January 15, it was more than 3,670. In one week, 15 metropolitan departments also show a drop in their incidence rate. In another 9 the increase is less than 5%, and in most territories it is between 10 and 20%. What hope of soon reaching a stagnation, or even a decline.

Another good news: Omicron, which leads to fewer serious forms, now being the majority with 92.5%, the explosion of cases is not accompanied by a saturation of hospital services. On average, in France, 75.3% of intensive care beds are occupied. A peak was reached on January 12 (3,985 patients) and since then the increase has given way to a stabilization of the figures, at just under 3,900 patients. Hospital admissions continue to be high (26,526 occupied beds).

Vaccine effectiveness

Another essential element in monitoring the epidemic, the daily number of deaths appears to have plateaued, averaging between 207 and 215 since January 8. By comparison, in November 2020, more than 400 people were dying every day, while the number of positive cases was six times lower than today.

Another cause for hope: Several treatments for severe forms of the disease will soon arrive in hospitals, including Pfizer’s Paxlovid and GSK’s Xevudy. Finally, it should be noted that compared to Omicron, “vaccine protection remains high against severe forms […], even if it is lower than that of the Delta variant”, assured the Department of Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics (Drees) on January 14.

All these elements give hope for “a peak” in “hospital admissions in the next week,” Arnaud Fontanet estimated on Monday. However, one parameter remains to be monitored: “it is not excluded” that the Delta variant “recede in the coming weeks,” warned the researcher. A hypothesis that would once again blur the forecasts…

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