What if the tenth wave of Covid-19 was slowly pointing the tip of its nose in France? In any case, this is what the latest contamination figures suggest. Between March 19 and 26, the average number of new cases in France rose from 6,794 to 7,926 (27.53%). Between March 12 and March 19, the increase was 45.04%.
At the same time, the incidence rate - the number of new patients per 100,000 inhabitants - does not reach 80 when it exceeded 600 at the end of December. However, such a rate had not been reached since mid-January. "The current situation is not alarming," reassures Le Figaro Philippe Amouyel, epidemiologist and professor of public health at the Lille University Hospital.
However, since the relaxation of isolation and testing rules in January, these figures should be taken with caution. “It is not impossible that case data is understated or overstated. What matters is the trend. It is stable and on the rise,” said Philippe Amouyel. An upward trend since the “second consecutive week, while remaining at low levels”, specifies Public Health France (SPF), the reproduction rate of the virus reaching 1.24 (one person therefore contaminates 1.24 others) . “Temperatures have cooled and vaccination coverage is starting to decline,” the specialist tries to explain.
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On the vaccine side, SPF notes “insufficient” coverage with reminders adapted to the Omicron variant. “As of March 20, 2023, 23.2% of people aged 60-79 and 25.9% of people aged 80 and over had received this reminder. In addition, 25.4% of 60-79 year olds had received an injection less than 6 months old and 8.5% of 80 year olds and over a dose less than 3 months old”, specifies SPF in its latest bulletin.
In hospitals, this slight rebound has so far had little consequence. Admittedly, the number of emergency visits for suspected Covid-19 increased by 20% over one week according to SPF, but new hospitalizations decreased by 13%. “If ever there were to be an impact in hospitals, it would be in two or three weeks”, recalls Philippe Amouyel. As of March 27, 2023, 13,113 people diagnosed with Covid-19 are hospitalized in the country. It was over 25,000 at the peak of the ninth wave.
Hospital pressure from Covid-19 on intensive care capacity is stable, around 14%, which remains “low”. It was double during the peak of the ninth wave. Around twenty people a day on average still die of Covid-19 in French hospitals, compared to more than 100 three months ago.
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This epidemic resumption is marked by the recombinant - that is to say a variant resulting from the combination of two other strains of the virus - XBB and its sub-lineage XBB.1.5. According to the latest data published by SPF on March 22, XBB accounted for 71% of viruses in France, including 45% of XBB.1.5.