France is on track for a “calm summer” and will avoid a fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic if the health situation continues to improve over the next 10 days, a senior epidemiologist from the Institut Pasteur has said.
Professor Arnaud Fontanet, a specialist in infectious diseases and a member of government scientific advisory body le Conseil scientifique, said he was optimistic about the months ahead if the health situation continues to improve in the lead up to June 9, in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche.
June 9 marks the next stage of deconfinement, and will notably allow people to sit indoors in restaurants and bars, and introduce increased capacity in public venues.
Professor Fontanet said that research models from the Institut Pasteur showed that results from the next 10 days are centrally important to whether France will avoid a fourth wave.
He said: “These scenarios show that if the decrease [of daily cases] continues until June 9, we will have a calm summer. All these little efforts; masks, barrier gestures, physical distancing...can have significant effects on the infection curve.”
Current figures suggest that the third lockdown, which began to be lifted on May 19, has had a positive effect. France is seeing fewer than 10,000 new cases of the virus per day, as opposed to 50,000 at the height of the third wave.
This is cause for optimism, Professor Fontanet said.
L'épidémiologiste Arnaud Fontanet : "Ne gâchons pas cette chance d'en finir avec l'épidémie et portons les derniers coups au virus pour revenir enfin à notre vie d'avant" https://t.co/BHE3FvSBH7 pic.twitter.com/vvhjbjlj7Z— Le JDD (@leJDD) May 31, 2021
He added that a good summer was also contingent on continued high rates of vaccination. The campaign opened for all adults on May 31, two weeks ahead of the government’s initial timetable.
Vaccination still poses a “challenge”, Professor Fontanet said, because the country must continue to “convince young people who are less affected by severe forms of Covid-19”.
He said: “Without massive vaccination, the epidemic could restart again.” He said that France would need to see 90% of the population vaccinated against the virus in order to prevent the pandemic from regaining ground.
Professor Fontanet also sought to reassure people on the effectiveness of the vaccines, as they are “helping us to win the race against the variants.”
He said that he was also in favour of vaccination for younger people aged 12-15 with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, as recommended by health authority la Haute Autorité de santé.
He concluded: “We must not waste this opportunity to finish strongly so we can finally return to our life before [the pandemic].”