Science

Covid-19: when is the life before?

Thirty thousand hospital patients on one side, soon 10 million first vaccine injections on the other: the race to try to control the Covid-19 epidemic continues, but the French still do not know when they will find a life normal.

With the epidemic worsening in recent weeks, which has led to further restrictive measures, the government has its eyes riveted on two sets of numbers in parallel.

On the one hand, the indicators of the epidemic, which continue to increase. The bar of 30,000 hospitalized Covid-19 patients was thus exceeded on Tuesday (30,639), which had not happened since the end of November, during the second wave.

Among these patients, 5,600 are in intensive care, well above the peak of the second wave (4,900 in mid November) and less and less far from that of the first (7,000 in April 2020). In one year, 71,208 people have died from Covid in hospital (97,301 in total).

At the same time, vaccination is progressing, at a rate that is still insufficient but which is set to accelerate.

So far, 3.2 million people have been vaccinated (two doses) and 9.5 million have received their first injection. And the expected acceleration is starting to show in the numbers: 1.3 million injections were performed during the first six days of April, out of a total of 12.7 million since December 27.

– 90% of adults vaccinated? –

The government is counting on larger supplies this month, with more than 12 million doses expected, and this week opened major vaccination centers, including the Stade de France.

After the three to four weeks of closure of schools which have just started, “we think that we will have slowed down the virus almost everywhere and we will have accelerated the vaccination. This will allow us to be in a more comfortable situation”, President Emmanuel Macron hoped on Tuesday by participating in a videoconference course for a 3rd grade class.

But “more comfortable situation” does not mean a return to the life before.

According to models from the Institut Pasteur, 90% of adults should be vaccinated in France by September 1 to hope for a return to normal life (or 59% in the more optimistic hypothesis where the contagiousness of the English variant would be less than feared).

“If such vaccination coverage cannot be achieved, some control of virus circulation may need to be maintained, for example through test-tracer-isolate, protective measures (eg masks) and certain level of physical distancing, “the researchers write.

However, according to the latest public health survey in France at the end of March, vaccination intentions were at best 79% for those over 65, falling to 36% for 18-24 year olds.

The goal of 90% of adults vaccinated therefore seems remote. Especially since some experts believe that vaccines alone will not be enough to end the epidemic.

– Horizon mid-May –

Vaccination center at the Clermont-Tonnerre military hospital in Brest, April 6, 2021 (AFP – LOIC VENANCE)

“Betting everything on vaccination is a (very) risky bet,” epidemiologist Antoine Flahault assured Wednesday on Twitter.

He pleads for a strategy of “minimal circulation of the virus” (“suppression / elimination”), like that implemented by certain countries of Asia or Oceania.

In these countries, strict measures are taken as soon as cases appear, combined with a drastic control of the foci of infection (test, trace, isolate). At the same time, normal life can continue in areas where the virus is not circulating.

These strategies “are not more tiring for the population, on the contrary”, judges Professor Flahault.

France, it, connects long months of restrictions. Restaurants, bars and cultural places remain desperately closed and travel bans have been in effect since this week, for a lighter version of the spring 2020 containment.

“There will be relaxations for this summer, and yes, the shops will reopen there, from mid-May,” promised Mr. Macron, quoted by the newspaper Le Parisien / Today in France. However, “we will reopen less quickly than on May 11”.

On the other hand, the executive maintains its desire to close the schools as little as possible: “It is essential that we resume classes in presence for nursery and primary on April 26, and for colleges and high schools the week of ‘after. I did not condition the reopening (…) to health indicators, “Emmanuel Macron told Le Parisien / Today in France.

In the meantime, students and parents were still struggling Wednesday with slowdowns in distance learning courses, the day after bugs related to failing servers and computer attacks.

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