Two departments in Occitanie are seeing the highest level of Covid cases this winter, as cases rise all over the country. It comes as experts warn people to get booster jabs where possible.
Hautes-Pyrénées and Gard have the highest incidence level, and eight departments in total have an incidence level of more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Level of incidence 876 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The most affected department in France. Covid patients make up 42% of beds in intensive care. In the department, 80.5% of the population are vaccinated.
Level of incidence, 668 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. 14% of hospital beds are occupied by Covid patients. 77.4% of the population are vaccinated.
Cases rising across France
Covid cases are spreading across the country. The latest figures from Santé Publique France show that 59,008 cases were confirmed in the past seven days. This is a rise of 21% in one week.
The national level of incidence is 522 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, as of November 29.
The rising cases have prompted some authorities to recommend that people start to wear masks again in enclosed public spaces, including public transport.
Should people in France get a Covid booster before Christmas?
With less than three weeks to go until Christmas and four weeks until New Year, experts are advising people in France to get vaccinated before the festivities.
Professor Alain Fischer, immunologist and former head of the government’s vaccination strategy, said: “Christmas or not, getting vaccinated is imperative. Now is really the time.”
Fourth vaccines (second booster doses) are currently open to vulnerable people in France, including people aged 60 or over, elderly care home residents, people with underlying conditions, pregnant women, or those who are immunosuppressed.
People who are in regular contact with these vulnerable groups can also get a booster.
Low takeup of booster jabs
Despite this availability, takeup of boosters has been low. Just two million people have had a booster, of which 1.8 million have received a newer vaccine designed to target the latest variants, said the Health Ministry.
Fewer than one in 10 (9.4%) of people aged 80 or over have received a jab, while just 7.2% of people aged 60-79 have done.
Professor Fischer has said that people should get booster vaccines as soon as they can, especially if their last vaccine was more than six months ago. He recommended that people have a vaccine at least eight days before planning to meet up with their loved ones, to ensure the greatest coverage.
Patrick Pelloux, president of the Association des médecins urgentistes de France, told BMFTV that “protecting yourself is to protect others”.
Both doctors said that continuing to test if you have Covid symptoms is also a good idea if you are planning to see vulnerable family members for Christmas.
Government spokesperson and former Health Minister Olivier Véran urged people to take up the offer of a booster if they can. He said that he regretted that “only 20% of people were ‘up to date’” on their vaccinations, even though the country is at the peak of the flu season, and a Covid rebound.