The number of hospitalisations for Covid is growing in France, as more than 60,000 new cases were counted last week, in what experts are calling the ‘rentrée (back to school) wave’.
The number of cases recorded over the past seven days represents a rise of 26.6% week-on-week.
In its most recent update statement (October 6), Santé publique France said: “[The virus] has strongly progressed over most of the mainland, in particular among older people.”
Over the same period, the health authority said that “the increase is equally being seen for hospital indicators”, with a net rise in hospital admissions due to a Covid diagnosis.
The most recent data (October 7) shows that there were 61,121 new cases of Covid reported in the past week, equating to a rise of 26.6%. The number of patients hospitalised for Covid is now at almost 16,800 – a figure that has not been seen since mid-August.
After having seen several waves since the start of the year, Covid had started to retreat by mid-August, with levels falling particularly low at that point.
However, cases began to rise swiftly after the rentrée in early September, when people began to return to school and work after the summer holiday period.
Expert: ‘Eighth wave to be moderate’
Despite the rising cases and hospitalisations, one infectologist expert, Professor Anne-Claude Crémieux, told Le Journal du Dimanche that she expects the impact of the eighth wave to be ‘moderate’.
Professor Crémieux, from the Saint-Louis hospital in Paris, said that this was because the first seven waves “were linked to the emergence of variants or sub-variants, resulting in a large number of reinfections”.
This is in contrast to “the current wave, on the other hand”, which she said is, “at least to date, not linked to the emergence of a new strain”.
She said: “If no new variant arrives, we can hope for a moderate health impact, provided that we persuade people over 60 to have regular booster shots because protection against severe forms fades after six months".
She said that it was likely that new waves of infections would regularly show up in autumn and winter, in the same way as other respiratory, seasonal viruses like flu.
New vaccination campaign…and masks?
It is against this backdrop that the government launched a new vaccination campaign in October, for people most at-risk, older, or more vulnerable. The vaccines used are updated versions of the existing formulas, and have been designed to target the current prevailing subvariant, Omicron.
People who voluntarily wish to have another booster as part of this campaign, even if they are not in an at-risk group, can choose to do so, Health Minister François Braun has said.
Health authorities have also not ruled out plans to make mask-wearing mandatory again as cases rise. Masks could be required again in enclosed, indoor spaces.
However, for the moment, Mr Braun has said that he is “trusting people in France” to protect themselves by using effective measures and common sense.
Professor Crémieux said that while “a medical-style mask reduces the risk of infection by two-thirds, and an FFP2 mask reduces it by 80%”, she said that “imposing obligations” on people to wear one is “more difficult” because there is “a risk of fatigue” over the rules.