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Leading epidemiologist warns of new Covid wave in France this summer

Antoine Flahault, professor of public health at the University of Geneva, says Covid is rebounding in all of western Europe but particularly in France

Pedestrians wearing masks to protect against Covid in Lyon Pic: Keitma / Shutterstock

A French epidemiologist has warned of a potential new wave of Covid in France this summer as cases increase rapidly, brought on by the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5. 

Antoine Flahault, professor of public health at the University of Geneva, said that in all of western Europe, Covid is rebounding, but particularly in France.

“The epidemic curve is exponential in France, it looks like a new wave which seems to be led by these new BA.4 and BA.5 variants of Omicron. The wave will affect all regions of metropolitan France,” he told Franceinfo.

He said it was too early to tell when the wave would peak, but that it is likely to affect France for much of the summer. 

Read more: Coronavirus: Daily updates on the situation in France

France is averaging just under 40,000 new Covid cases per day – not including the tests that people do not report. This number has almost doubled since last week, figures from Covidtracker.fr show. 

Credit: Covidtracker / https://covidtracker.fr/ 
Caption: Average number of Covid cases per day in France

The rate of hospitalisations and admittances to ICUs for Covid are relatively stable, as shown in the graphs below. 

 

 

Credit: Covidtracker / https://covidtracker.fr/ 

Caption: Average number of hospital and ICU admissions due to Covid in France each day

Portugal should serve as warning

Professor Flahault says that the current situation in Portugal should serve as a warning for France. 

“In Portugal, the number of deaths has been very high in recent weeks, particularly among those people aged over 80.

“What is happening in Portugal could happen with a few weeks' delay here,” he warned. 

He said that people who are fully vaccinated against Covid should be protected from more extreme forms of Covid. However, it does not mean they will not catch Covid as the BA.5 strain is new. 

“This sub-variant is not much more violent than the others, but 93% of the observed deaths have occurred in people over 80. 

“So people over 80 are at very high risk, including this summer, of dying from this variant.”

He also warned that the current heatwave hitting France could cause case rates to increase. 

“Respiratory viruses, in general, are less transmissible when you are outdoors. In summer…we're outside more often. 

“But at the moment with the heatwave, people are told to close the windows, in retirement homes we try not to let the hot air in from outside. 

“So, there are risks during the summer of spreading this virus.”

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