Covid-19 France: new data shows rise in cases, call for vigilance

Health minister advises people to social distance and wear a mask in high-risk situation

A view of a Covid test with the words Pirola BA.2.86
The Pirola strain is thought to be behind the rise in cases
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Covid cases are rising again in France, with the health minister advising people to take care - including reverting to social distancing and wearing a mask - in enclosed, at-risk situations.

The rising cases are not significant enough to have prompted an official health alert, but Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau told France 2: “If you have symptoms, wear a mask. If you are going to see a vulnerable person, wear a mask.

“If you have Covid, it is best to stay at home and not go to work.”

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Mr Rousseau said that health authorities were monitoring the situation, and were ready to bring forward this autumn’s vaccination campaign in the event of a spike in cases. Currently, the campaign is set to begin on October 17, for people who are most vulnerable to serious illness.

Just like last year, the Covid campaign will happen at the same time as the annual winter flu drive, and people will be able to have both vaccinations at a single appointment.

Read more: When will the autumn Covid vaccination campaign start in France?

Epidemic expert Antoine Flahault, director of the Global Health Institute in Geneva, Switzerland, has also warned that the current figures give a very “blurred picture of reality”, due to the lack of testing now compared to during the height of the pandemic.

He told Le Monde: “We are no longer doing any PCR tests for Covid, and we are not systematically analysing wastewater.”

In its most recent weekly update, on September 5, health authority Santé publique France (SPF) said that the number of consultations by the [at-home] SOS Médecins network was continuing “to rise for all age groups”.

SOS Médecins carried out 3,482 consultations for suspected Covid-19 from August 28 to September 3, an increase of 22% compared to the previous week.

In contrast, the number of hospital A&E visits for suspected Covid-19 remained stable (at 2,769, compared with 2,731 the previous week), according to the Oscour network of hospital emergency departments.

It comes after SPF confirmed that the first case of the new variant, dubbed Pirola (or BA.2.86), had been recorded in France, in Grand Est, in the latest weekly flash survey of August 21. Another variant, Eris, was also previously blamed for the rise in cases.

“Investigations are underway to collect extra information on this first case [of Pirola],” SPF said.

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