France is currently facing a fifth wave of the Covid pandemic, with the number of daily cases - which peaked at over 104,000 on December 24 - now higher than ever.
However, so far hospitalisation rates, intensive care unit admissions and deaths have not exploded in the same fashion, and remain lower than during the first three waves.
Santé publique France (SPF) wrote in its latest Covid report, published December 23, that the rate of Covid cases remains at a “very high level”, despite the increase slowing compared to previous weeks.
The authority noted regional differences, with Ile-de-France and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur particularly badly affected.
“An intensification of the circulation of the Omicron variant, whose greater transmissibility has now been demonstrated, calls for the greatest vigilance, particularly in the context of the festive gatherings at the end of the year,” SPF wrote.
“New hospitalisations and admissions to critical care units seem to have stabilised at a high level, but remain lower than in the first three waves.”
SPF stated that the Delta variant is still the dominant strain of Covid in France, but that the number of Omicron cases was increasing, making up around 11% of cases in the latest round of test sequencing carried out on December 6.
Health minister Olivier Véran estimated on December 22 the proportion of Omicron cases had reached up to 20% [of the positive cases] nationally.
The authority also stressed the importance of monitoring the effect of the fifth wave on young people, who are the most affected demographic currently.
“The significant circulation of the virus in young children over the past several weeks calls for careful monitoring of their hospital and critical care admissions,” the SPF wrote.
While hospitalisations and deaths remain lower than previous waves, there tends to be a lag between an increase in cases and an increase in these rates.
Covid cases compared to previous waves
France is averaging 68,289 Covid cases per day, figures from December 23 (looking at the previous seven days) show. On December 24 alone, 104,611 cases were recorded.
The average number of daily cases is far higher during this wave than previous waves. In spring 2021, at the peak of the third wave, daily average cases reached a peak of just under 35,000.
The graph below shows how the Covid case numbers compare during waves three, four and five.
The dark blue shaded area shows average cases, while the lighter bars show daily case numbers.
Hospital rates compared to previous waves
There are 16,365 people hospitalised for Covid in France latest figures from December 26 show, an increase of 6.6% from the previous week.
The number of new daily hospitalisations in France remains stable, around 7,000 per day.
The rate of people in hospitals is higher than the fourth Covid wave in summer 2021, but still far lower than the third wave in the spring.
The graph below shows peaks of over 31,000 people in hospital due to Covid in mid-April.
Admissions to intensive care units compared to previous waves
There are 3,299 people in intensive care units in France due to Covid, the latest figures from December 26 show. This is an increase of 11.6% from the previous week.
The number of people being admitted to ICUs daily is stable, at around 1,600.
The rate of people in ICUs due to Covid currently is higher than the fourth wave during the summer of 2021, which peaked at just under 2,300 on September 1. But it is far lower than during the third wave in the spring, when the number reached a peak of 6,001 people on April 26.
Deaths compared to previous waves
An average of 162 people are dying each day in hospital in France with Covid cited as the cause, the latest figures from December 26 show. This is an increase of 10% from the previous week.
This is higher than the fourth wave, with the average daily deaths peaking at 117.9 on August 24, and lower than during the third wave, with rates peaking at 323 on April 12.