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500,000 daily Covid cases in France: is going out a key reason why?

People in France are moving around more than their European neighbours and staying at home less, according to Google data

France recorded more than 500,000 new Covid cases yesterday (January 25) Pic: Jerome LABOUYRIE / Shutterstock

France recorded 501,635 new Covid cases yesterday (January 25), the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic.

The positivity rate of tests taken is 31.7% and the country’s infection rate is approaching 4,000 per 100,000 people. 

There are also 30,189 people with Covid being treated in French hospitals, a figure which has not been reached since April 2021. Some 3,842 admissions were made in the 24-hour period up to yesterday afternoon and there were also 364 Covid-related hospital deaths recorded.

However, the number of people in intensive care – currently 3,741 – is in decline, having seen a slight drop of 35 yesterday. 

This is because Omicron is more transmissible but generally less virulent than previous Covid variants, resulting in many hospital admissions because of the sheer number of people infected, but fewer people needing intensive care treatment.

In addition, although yesterday brought with it a record number of infections, on Monday (January 24) there had only been 108,000, suggesting that the reporting of results was still catching up after the weekend.

As case numbers continue to rise, France’s booster campaign presses on, with 312,000 doses being administered yesterday (January 25).

Could France’s high case numbers be linked to way of life?

Some scientific experts have suggested that France’s still rising case numbers could be linked to the government’s school Covid rules and the return to the classroom after the Christmas holidays.

Read more: Why are Covid cases in France still higher than in most of Europe?

However, Health Minister Olivier Véran argued yesterday (January 25) that: “If there was a direct, obvious, unique causal link [between schools and virus circulation] we would be observing the same thing in all countries where schools are open.” 

Read more: France had 60 confirmed cases of BA.2 Covid subvariant last week

“We prioritised freedom of movement, especially for the holidays, at a time when other countries put strict measures in place,” Mr Véran added, and Google data does indeed suggest that people in France are generally more mobile than their European neighbours, Franceinfo reports. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Google has been publishing anonymous mobility reports based on geolocation data from people’s phones. 

The number of people frequenting shops, workplaces, houses and public transport during the pandemic has then been compared to the equivalent figure for the same period in a normal year, and the percentage variation has been calculated.

By January 20, 2022, people in France were found to be using public transport 19% less than at the beginning of 2020, but this drop was smaller than that observed in other European countries. 

In the UK, for example, public transport use had fallen by 37%, and in Denmark it was down by 34%.

On January 20, the number of people in France who were going to places of work was down by 17% in comparison to the same time in 2020. By January 22, the difference had shrunk to only 7%.

These figures reflect, again, a greater mobility on the part of the French population. In contrast, the number of British people going to work was 23% smaller on January 20, and the number of Danish people was 20% smaller. 

It was only the population of Germany which was travelling to work in similar numbers to the French.

Although people in France were found to be spending more time at home than they were in early 2020, they were still going out more than people elsewhere in Europe.

The amount of time people in France were spending at home by January 20 was also lower than in previous waves. While an additional 6.8% of people’s time was being spent in their houses this month, this figure was 14% in spring 2021, 16% in winter 2020 and 30% in March 2020. 

Related articles

End of Covid pandemic ‘plausible’ with Omicron, says WHO director

Leading French scientist: variant of Omicron may cause new Covid wave

Nine million people in France risk losing vaccine pass if no booster

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