Covid cases appear to be dropping in France, suggesting that the country may be past the peak of the current wave of infections, as modelled by the Institut Pasteur.
One month after the start of the sixth wave of the virus, the number of daily positive cases has dropped for the past two days, according to the latest figures from la Direction générale de la Santé.
There were 102,266 cases on Sunday, April 3, 7% less than the Sunday before.
The trend is still very new, and more time is needed to confirm the shift. Positive test figures from Santé publique France have a three-day delay.
However, so far, early figures suggest that cases are plateauing. If this drop in daily cases continues, it may be said that the peak of the sixth wave is behind us.
Geographically, this map shows that in the majority of departments, the rate of incidence (the number of positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants) is either stable (zero movement, salmon colour on the map), or dropping (white or blue).
It has risen in just 12 departments over the past seven days (dark red on the map).
Real-life is following the Institut models so far
This trend appears to follow one of the scenarios suggested by the Institut Pasteur Covid modelling team in their series of hypothetical forecasts, at the end of February.
The models included a peak of 150,000 cases expected at the end of March, followed by a drop.
The team, led by infectious diseases modelling expert Dr Simon Cauchemez, published its report on March 10. It suggested that the epidemic would see an increase in cases, with the transmission rate rising from 40% to 130% from March 7 to 14.
This was attributed to the dominance of the sub-variant Omicron BA.2, which is more contagious; and the end of restriction measures and dropping of barrier gestures.
The real-life evolution of case numbers has therefore followed the models so far.
Real-life trends may not continue to follow models
However, the Institut is always keen to point out that their models are not “predictions” as such, and that there is no guarantee that the real-life situation will continue to follow the models’ suggested trends.
Dr Cauchemez has said that the modelling had several drawbacks.
Firstly, it did not take into account how long people remain immune to infection if they got Covid before the dominance of the Omicron variant.
Instead, it worked on the principle that people could not get re-infected by Covid from April 1, if they were infected during the fifth wave (the wave before this one).
Secondly, it did not take weather or temperature into account. Warmer temperatures can cause the virus to spread more slowly, and vice versa.
France experienced unseasonably good weather in mid-March, followed by a sharp drop in temperatures in the past week, meaning that the infection rates could change in the coming days.
The Institut is now working on a more complete model, which also takes into account the possibility of reinfection, and changing weather, between now and next winter.
Hospitalisations behind case numbers
The current model suggests that right now, France is likely to see a rise in hospitalisations and admissions to intensive care in the next few days (as there is usually a delay of around 10 days between infection and the development of severe illness).
This will, it is suspected, then drop again.
This delay also explains why hospitalisations and intensive care admissions are still rising currently, despite infections going down.
It comes after doctors debated whether Covid was “over” in the country, with one specialist saying that the “current discourse around Covid [suggesting it is finished] is incomprehensible”.
However, Dr Karine Lacombe, high-profile specialist at the Hôpital Saint-Antoine, Sorbonne Université, said that “there are quite telling signs that Covid has entered a kind of... routine” and that “we are passing into a new stage. We are finally no longer in a perpetual catastrophe: we can see the way out”.