Why Covid-19 hospital cases are rising again in France

‘Covid is not gone’ warn experts, ahead of the legislative elections and Olympics

“It’s no longer automatic for people to wear a mask when they are ill,” said specialist Dr Benjamin Davido

People in France are being advised to self-isolate and wear masks, as an expert warns that “Covid is not gone”, and hospital cases continue to rise.

“People thought that Covid was gone, but that’s not the case,” said infectious diseases expert Dr Benjamin Davido to FranceInfo, adding that he believes that people should still self-isolate in the event that they have Covid symptoms and/or test positive. 

He issued the warning ahead of two events that will see people congregate in large numbers: the legislative elections, and the Paris Olympics.

“It’s not good news to see Covid in summer,” he said, in reference to the fact that respiratory diseases usually spread in winter, when people are indoors more.

‘A rebound after low activity’

His comments come after figures from health authority Santé publique France show a 52% increase week-on-week in hospital emergency visits for Covid-related issues, and 51% more consultations with SOS Médecins (1,507 between June 3 and 10) - although numbers remain very low compared to during the pandemic.

Read also: Covid-19 in France: Hospital consultations remain low, but rising 

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has also said that it is recording “a rebound in widespread SARS-COV-2 after a long period of low activity”.

Similarly, the World Health Organization has said that Covid is “continuing to spread and evolve”, with new variants becoming better at ‘escaping’ vaccination coverage.

Dr Davido added that “there have been more hospitalisations since last week" at the hospital where he works, the Raymond-Poincaré hospital in Garches (Hauts-de-Seine). “Treatments for suspected Covid have continued to rise for the past eight weeks,” he said.

Concern ahead of ‘several deadlines’

As stated hospitalisation numbers are low compared to the peak of the Covid pandemic but the rising numbers may still be cause for concern.

“We thought Covid had gone, above all, had become a seasonal disease, but that's not the case. We have several deadlines,” Dr Davido said. “The first is the legislative elections. We're going to find ourselves queuing in a rather confined fashion at polling stations.

“[And] above all, in less than 50 days, we have the Olympic Games. We'd like things to be as controlled as possible.”

‘It’s no longer automatic for people to wear a mask’

He said that Covid was not the only concern, with cases of measles also spreading, along with increased reports of dengue fever. The doctor added that he believes people should be more alert and more careful not to spread infection.

Read also: Surge in imported dengue fever cases to France from overseas 

“Above all, it’s no longer automatic for people to wear a mask when they are ill, or to test themselves to avoid contaminating people and creating clusters,” he said. 

Another specialist, Professor Mircea Sofonea, epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, told AFP that this new rise was “predictable”, due to “immune decline” linked to less vaccination and the reduced effectiveness of vaccination over time (although they still offer protection against severe illness).

Dr Davido advised people to “isolate when you are symptomatic, to avoid contaminating people", and reminded everyone who can be vaccinated to ensure their boosters are up to date.

As of June 13 - a few days before the end of the latest vaccination campaign - 360,812 people had received a booster dose. Of these, 188,035 of these people were aged 80 or over, show figures from the Direction Générale de la Santé (DGS).

Smartphones stop contact tracking

The calls for self-isolation and protective gestures come as tech giant Apple announces that its latest iPhone software update will remove the ‘exposure to Covid’ notifications.

The feature, which launched in April 2020 as the pandemic took hold, sent users notifications if it believed that they had been in contact with someone who was infected. Google also launched a version of the tool.

In France, a government version of the tool, StopCovid - which later became TousAntiCovid - performed a similar task. However, a July 2022 report by computer safety agency CNIL found that the app had not been particularly effective in tracing contacts, and had a “marginal usefulness”. 

The app was ‘paused’ in June 2023, and has not been updated since.