AGI – In the last few weeks in France, the number of new Covid-19 positives has increased sharply, which have even exceeded 10 thousand cases per day, and in some regions the number of beds in intensive care and in specialized wards are scarce. The picture is deteriorating rapidly, causing fear, even among European neighbors, of the emergence of a second wave. The surge in cases also raises a series of doubts and questions about the management of the exit from “confinement” and the strategies adopted by Paris to stem the transmission of the virus.
To explain at least in part the current critical situation, it could be the concomitance of some factors both in terms of timing, and of tools available in the strategic response to the pandemic, and of less rigorous behavior of citizens. “In reaction to the ‘fatigue from coronavirus’ and the lack of freedom of the spring months, since the end of June the habits of the French have changed a lot, especially on vacation, and barrier gestures were observed with less diligence by everyone regardless of age.
At that time, however, the identification-tracing-isolation system was not yet sufficiently consolidated ”, explains to AGI Vittoria Colizza, research director of the Epicx laboratory, at the French National Institute of Health and Research (Inserm) in Paris.
Scientists had foreseen a scenario of resumption of infections
For those who, like Colizza, carry out risk assessment, mitigation and control analyzes of human and animal epidemics, on mathematical and computational approaches, the current trend is not exactly a surprise.
An Inserm modeling study carried out last April and subsequently published by the journal BMC Medicine had proposed 4 possible scenarios for the exit from the confinement of France, taking into account a combination of factors: the ‘test-trace-isolate’ strategy, social distancing measures – including the gradual reopening of some commercial activities – and the adoption of preventive measures by the population.
“In fact, two of these scenarios predicted a decrease in cases between May and June, followed by an increase in epidemic activity over the summer months. In particular, one of the scenarios is in line with the hospitalization data for the period between May and September ”, emphasizes the scientist.
As for the first point, that is the test-trace-isolate strategy, a new system created to allow France to exit the lockdown, between 13 May and the end of June it identified only one case out of 10, leaving out 9 (underdetection) . The capabilities of this strategy have subsequently strengthened, hand in hand with the increase in tests performed – currently more than one million per week – of the laboratories and personnel available.
Test-tracking-isolation strategy not effective
“Numbers in hand, one of the reasons for the increase in viral circulation in the summer months was the limited capacity of the test-trace-isolate strategy in the initial phase of deconfinement. The fact that in May and June it was able to identify only one symptomatic case out of 10 limited the effectiveness of this strategy as a tool to fight the pandemic ”analyzes Colizza, taking up the authoritative studies of the Epicx laboratory she directed.
“On paper, this strategy should have slowed the chain of transmission of the virus, but certainly a more aggressive system would have been needed to stem the pandemic,” says the researcher. Added to this is the fact that when the strategy in question was launched, epidemic activity was in decline as in France the return to school was first on a voluntary basis – with only 20% of pupils present in the classroom – and very partial work for millions of French people.
Subsequently, from July onwards, if on the one hand the ability to test, trace and isolate has increased up to about 50% (compared to about 7% in June), on the other, holidays have begun and citizens are tired after months of lockdowns have begun to observe preventive measures with less rigor, both in their daily life and in the vacation spot.
“Even if at the moment we are not yet able to accurately assess the impact of tourism on the rebound of cases, it is clear that the increase in contacts between people who have less respected barrier gestures and the exchange of populations between various holiday regions in the Hexagone have contributed to the current growth of the circulation of the virus ”continues the researcher. As regards the profile of hospitalized patients – mostly elderly and subjects with some previous pathologies – it has remained substantially unchanged compared to previous months.
In the Hexagon the distribution of the virus has changed
On the current epidemic situation beyond the Alps, the scholar highlights that, however, the ‘geography’ of Covid-19 has changed. During the first wave it had mainly affected the regions of the North-Great East, Hauts de France and Ile de France, while now the most critical picture concerns other territories, in particular Marseille and the Bouches-du-Rhône department, Bordeaux and the French Riviera.
“In the most affected regions, the doubling time of hospital admissions for Covid-19 is now less than two weeks. We are facing a consistent and consistent increase, however slower than the first wave at the moment, but accelerating in many regions due to the return to work and the reopening of schools after the summer break ”concludes Colizza.
Until now, the strategy implemented by the government of Jean Castex is to leave the local administrations carte blanche, authorizing them to autonomously enact restrictive measures if necessary – obligation to wear a mask even outdoors in many French cities, curfew, limitation of gatherings, reduction of hours of opening activities – with thedeclared goal of avoiding a new national lockdown at all costs.
According to the latest report released by the Santé Publique Agency, in the last 24 hours France has registered 10,593 new cases of coronavirus against 9,784 cases detected the day before. Since the beginning of the emergency, 467,421 infections have been recorded. There were 50 deaths related to Covid-19, for a total of 31,257 victims since the beginning of the pandemic.