People in France can look forward to a Christmas with family and friends if they modify their behaviour now, according to epidemiological experts.
France’s fifth Covid wave is rapidly gathering pace, with infections having increased by 60% in the past week.
In addition to this, according to Santé publique France there are now 25 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in France, with several other ‘suspected’ cases being sequenced.
However, the situation is very different to winter 2020 due to France’s vaccination campaign.
Health Minister Olivier Véran said that case numbers would reach the same level as the peak of the third wave this spring by the end of last week but hospitalisations are currently much lower.
On March 29, when 40,000-50,000 cases were being reported each day – as is now the case once again – 28,322 people were hospitalised and 4,974 were in intensive care with Covid. By April 8, there were 7,019 people in intensive care.
As of December 2, there were 10,790 people in hospital with Covid and 1,934 in intensive care, according to government-approved site CovidTracker, despite over 50,000 new cases being reported.
If the situation continues to worsen, however, the number of people being admitted to hospital could rise to the same level as the second peak in November 2020, when hospitalisations exceeded 30,000.
“Today there is no reason to believe that French people will not be able to spend Christmas with their families,” government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said during a press conference on December 2.
Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the government’s Conseil scientifique, has also said that “Christmas is not at risk if we all take care, collectively and individually.”
Institut Pasteur epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet added that “we will all need to make the effort: the pool of people vulnerable (to being infected) is much more limited” now, he said.
“The efforts necessary for stalling this fifth wave and avoiding a peak of 2,500 hospitalisations per day amounts to diminishing our contacts by 10%, or even better, 20%.”
“Unfortunately, the period over which we will need to curb the circulation of the virus includes the holidays at the end of the year,” he added.
Prof Fontanet and Prof Delfraissy both urge people to observe social distancing measures and to air out rooms as much as possible, as well as considering working from home.
Finally, the French government and health authorities are urging the six million eligible people who are not yet vaccinated to do so, as well as encouraging those who have had both doses to get their booster as well.
Data from national statistics organisation Drees shows that a person’s risk of contracting Covid is approximately 10 times lower if they have had all the required vaccine doses plus a booster. They are even less likely to be hospitalised or admitted to intensive care.