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France experts: Covid second wave may be ‘bigger than first’

France’s top scientific advisors have repeated their prediction that a second wave of Covid-19 in France is “extremely likely” in autumn and winter this year, and even warned it “could be bigger than the first”.

In a new statement to the government on Sunday June 21, government scientific council le Conseil Scientifique said: “An intensification of the spread of SARS-Cov-2 [the coronavirus that causes Covid-19] in the northern hemisphere, in the more or less distant future (around a few months, and especially as winter approaches), is extremely likely.”

The council based its prediction on three main principles: the low level of collective immunity; the changing state of the epidemic in other world regions; and existing data from ‘flu pandemics.

Herd immunity

The council estimates that only 5% of the population in France has immunity to SARS-Cov-2 which, it said, is “very insufficient” to prevent the epidemic from spreading again should it come back.

This level of immunity is similar to that suggested by research institute l’Institut Pasteur, but lower than some estimates, which put it at around 10% in some areas. However even 10% is still far from the percentage that would constitute herd immunity (around 80-90%).

Global presence and similar data

The council also highlighted that the virus is still spreading rapidly in other parts of the world, especially in the southern hemisphere, which is “approaching its winter period”. It also said that, based on data from ‘flu pandemics, epidemics such as this often spread over “two or three waves before settling down into a seasonal rhythm”.

Data collection

The council added that these factors justify, in its view, the “saving of health data” - especially that gathered from the national testing system le Système d’Information National de Dépistage (Si-Dep), which collects the results of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) Covid-19 tests.

The council stated: “This data remains very precious as long as the threat of another spread of the virus exists in France.”


Warning repeated

Council president, Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, had already appeared with four other members of the council on June 18, to tell l’Assemblée Nationale that a second wave of infections in Autumn was likely.

He also said that the largest risk appeared to be travellers coming from South America, not China.

Read more: Second Covid-19 wave risk for France in Autumn, warn experts

Read more: French studies pessimistic for second wave

The council also said that the government should begin planning for a second wave now.

Council member and intensive care doctor Dr Lila Bouadma said: “We still have a few weeks, even a few months to prepare to reopen [intensive care] beds...because the second wave could be even bigger than the first.”

Virologist and fellow council member Professor Bruno Lina, added: “The philosophy of massive testing in France must be combined with self-isolation measures, and contact tracing to be able to break the chain of transmission.

"That is something that we must activate widely during a second wave.”

Council president Professor Delfraissy said: “We hope that we are wrong. But our role is to put on the table, in front of political decision-makers, what could possibly happen. Our message, [which is based] on experience, is to [advise] preparation, and fight against a lack of preparation.”

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