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‘New Covid wave’ in France, says leading professor

Daily cases are rising, a professor and expert epidemiologist has warned, due to new sub-variants BA4 and BA5 – but it is too soon to ascertain their impact

The front of the emergency department at a hospital in Calais

It is too soon to ascertain the impact of the ‘new wave’, Professor Flahault said Pic: Pixavril / Shutterstock

The Covid-19 epidemic “appears to be starting a new wave” in France, figures suggest, leading epidemiologist Professor Antoine Flauhault has warned.

Director of the Institute of Global Health at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Geneva made the statement to FranceInfo on June 3, after health body Santé publique France (SPF) released figures showing a significant rise in daily cases.

This new wave is “linked to sub-variants that we identified in Africa, which caused a real wave in Portugal over the past few weeks, and which are called BA4 and BA5”.

Professor Flahault noted that there had been a noticeable rise in infections, and said: “Increasingly, throughout Europe, when we sequence the genome of the viruses we identify, they are more and more often BA4 and BA5.”

He added that as well as France, the UK, Germany and Switzerland are also seeing “similar levels of rebound”. Antoine Flahault adds that another sub-variant "which has created a wave in the last few weeks in the United States, is also a sub-variant of Omicron".

The professor said that the “new wave” would not necessarily mean “something profoundly different”, and that it was too soon to tell if increased cases would mean increased numbers of deaths and hospitalisations, due to the protective effect of vaccines against serious infection. 

He said: “We know that vaccines work on severe forms…but unfortunately, we're pretty poorly protected from the transmission of the virus and the mild forms for most of us." 

Yet, he advised people who had not yet had their complete vaccination that there was “still time to get vaccinated…so you do not suffer from severe forms of Covid”.

The most recent figures from SPF (June 4) show that there were 25,172 new cases confirmed, a figure up 6.7% over the previous seven days. The level of incidence (the number of cases per 100,000 people) was 234.6, up 10.8% over the past seven days.

The R number was 0.7 (anything above 1 shows that the virus is actively spreading). Of the positive tests sequenced, 100% are now Omicron.

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Coronavirus: Daily updates on the situation in France 
Extra Covid booster recommended for over 65s in France this autumn 

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