Coronavirus circulation higher in France since deconfinement

Factors suggesting that the virus is circulating at a higher rate include a rising R number and an increase in the number of people per month calling medical helpline SOS Médecins with Covid-19-related queries.

14 July 2020
Someine washing their hands with water. Coronavirus circulation has increased in France since deconfinement.Santé Public France says the public must continue to use barrier measures, such as washing hands, to prevent the virus circulating.
By Joanna York

Numbers from health body Santé Publique France show that France’s R number (R Zéro), which represents the infection rate of Covid-19 has risen following deconfinement in France. 

Before confinement, France’s R number was at 3.3, meaning one person infected with Covid-19 infected on average 3.3 others. Experts and the government aimed to get the R number below 1, as at this level so few people are being infected that the virus eventually stops circulating.

During confinement in France, the national R number went down to 0.7, but it has now risen again to 1.05. 

Different R numbers in different regions

However, the R number is not the same in every region in France. In the Grand Est, originally one of the areas worst-hit by the virus in France, the R number is currently 0.6.

In Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Occitanie the R number is 0.8-1.

But in all other regions in mainland France the R, number is 1 and over. It is particularly elevated in Pays de la Loire, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. 

Read more: Rise in Covid-19 traces found in Paris water

Calls to medical helpline also rising

Calls to telephone medical service SOS Médecins related to Covid-19 have also gone up in the past month. This has been suggested as a worrying sign, as such calls are one of the first indicators of how the virus is affecting the wider population. 

In March, when confinement measures began in France, the helpline received 2,500 calls related to Covid-19. This went down to 100 in June, but has now risen to 300 (so far) in July.

Vigilance required says Santé Publique France 

The latest weekly report from Santé Publique France, released on July 9, confirms Covid-19 cases rose in France when compared to the previous week.

It states: “These results support a trend towards an increase in the circulation of the virus in metropolitan areas in France.”

However, it says circulation rates are still relatively low, with 68 clusters of infection being actively investigated.

The report concluded by warning that protective barrier measures are less likely to be observed in the summertime. It states: “The summer holidays are conducive to risky behaviours, notably meeting family members and friends in large groups, and diminished use of systematic prevention measures which could support the return of the epidemic.”

Even if numbers today are relatively low, they point to a need for increased vigilance Santé Publique France said.

“It seems indispensable that the public rigorously adopt suggested barrier measures, and any person who has symptoms of Covid-19 consults a doctor as quickly as possible, takes a test and respects isolation measures," the report states.

Coronavirus blood tests are now available, without prescription, in French pharmacies

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