Covid-19 in France latest stats: Hospital visits show small rise

Several people also complained of virus symptoms following packed Paris concerts by pop icon Taylor Swift

Enclosed venues with thousands of attendees can cause the spread of infections

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, is back in the news in France after several people reported symptoms following several giant Taylor Swift concerts in Paris and new statistics show a small rise in people seeking help at hospital emergency services.

Swift, who is continuing her incredibly successful Eras Tour in Europe, performed at La Défense Arena in Paris for four nights from May 9 to 12. Each show lasted more than three hours, and had more than 40,000 spectators.

Now, in its latest update on May 15 (relating to May 12-14), health authority Santé publique France (SPF) reported that hospital emergency service visits for suspected cases of Covid-19 are on the rise among all demographics. 

Yet, the numbers remain low. 

There has been a 20% rise in cases among people aged 15 or under (eight cases of hospital visits), and a 28% jump in cases among people aged 15 and over (representing 71 hospital visits). The over-75s, who are the most vulnerable, have been the most affected, with a 46% increase in cases in this age group, figures show, with 48 new hospital visits for suspected Covid, SPF said.

The rise has been marked for several weeks, although circulation of the virus is now more difficult to estimate accurately, as the number of people being tested and the monitoring system have dropped in comparison to the peak of the pandemic.

One fan who went to a Paris Taylor Swift date wrote on X (Twitter) that she had fallen ill after the show, and found that many people had experienced the same problem. 

“All the people I know [who went to the gigs] are also ill,” one said. “But it was still worth it.”

‘Infection during a concert’

Virologist Professor Bruno Lina, at the CHU Lyon and manager of the Centre national de référence pour les virus respiratoires (CNR), said: “If you bring together tens of thousands of people in a closed venue, the environment is ripe for a few sick people to infect several neighbours during a concert.” 

He told La Dépêche that the situation is “not worrying for the time being”.

Prof Lina added that “the virus has not disappeared, it is just spreading at a low level. But the level of contagion right now is extremely low. In the long term, it will probably come back periodically, like influenza.

“However, it is still relatively unpredictable, and we don't have enough historic knowledge to be able to assess its cycle. This is why we are continuing to monitor its development, both internationally and in Europe,” he said.

Professor Antoine Flahault, public health professor and chair of the WHO European Expert Group on COVID-19, wrote on X: “The conditions are all there [for infection], because people are spending three hours singing, shouting, and screaming their happiness together in an enclosed space.”

The director of the Paris La Défense Arena, Bathilde Lorenzetti, has been quick to defend the venue. She said: “The air that comes in is completely purified and is renewed every two hours by seven air extractors that take (the ‘old’ air) outside.

“This is much more than the regulatory levels required by Covid rules,” she said.

Stop the spread

Other countries including Ireland, the UK, and Germany have detected a rise in cases over the past two weeks, although the most recent figures suggest that the increase may now have reached a plateau.

Prof Lina reminded people that barrier methods, especially if you have symptoms, are one of the best ways to prevent the spread. This includes wearing a mask, washing hands, and avoiding close contact with others.

The symptoms are the same as all respiratory infections, and include a runny nose, cough, headache, and a possible fever.

Vaccination remains the most effective way of stopping the spread, said Prof Lina.

International dates

Taylor Swift is continuing her tour in Europe for now, with the next dates scheduled for Lisbon and Madrid. She is returning to France on June 2-3, with appearances at the Groupama Stadium in Lyon.

Swift is then heading to the UK, beginning with dates in Edinburgh, Liverpool, and Cardiff before heading to London and Dublin. She then goes to the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Poland, back to London, finishing her European leg in Austria, before heading to Canada. 

The latest official Covid statistics for France can be found here.