Covid-19: health authorities call for vigilance against the threat of the Omicron variant


The peak of the 5th wave may have been reached, but the “dazzling” rise of the new variant in Europe worries, admits Jean Castex.

In the middle of the fifth wave due to the Delta variant, the government calls for the greatest vigilance in the face of the arrival “dazzling “ from Omicron. This variant “Will spread very quickly to the point of becoming dominant from the start of 2022” in France, estimated Jean Castex Friday evening at the end of a new Health Defense Council.

A watchword therefore: vaccinate. The time limit to access the 3e dose will be reduced to four months and “A bill will be submitted to Parliament at the beginning of January in particular to transform the health pass into a vaccination pass”, which can only be activated with a complete vaccination schedule and no longer with a simple negative test, announced the Prime Minister. 76.4% of the population had been fully immunized by December 14, and among people 65 years of age and older, 60.5% had received a booster dose. According to the Directorate of Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics (DREES), the 9% of unvaccinated people in the adult population represent 41% of hospital admissions, 52% of critical care admissions and 38% of deaths. “The injection of the booster to people whose full status dates back more than 6 months greatly improves vaccine protection against death, it actually goes back to around 98%”, says the Drees.

At the start of the holiday, Jean Castex called on the French to be tested before each gathering and asked the town halls to give up the New Year’s festivities. Because the incidence rate, at more than 510 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, now exceeds peaks of the last three waves. It explodes especially in 6-10 year olds (more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants) and continues to increase in all regions. However, it is growing at a slower pace (13% last week, compared to 44% the previous one). The same goes for hospitals: new hospitalizations and critical care admissions are on the rise in most regions, but at a slower pace. Have we reached the peak for all that? “We cannot predict whether or not this peak will be exceeded”, estimates Isabelle Parent, head of the respiratory infections and vaccination unit at the Infectious Diseases Department of Public Health France.

And so there is the Omicron threat, much more contagious than Delta. 310 confirmed cases were identified Thursday in France, and some wastewater stations in Île-de-France are already showing a breakthrough of the variant, according to the Obépine surveillance network: while the characteristic mutations of Omicron were absent there is still a few days, they now represent 5 to 8% of samples, which attests to an active circulation of the variant.

First wave income

With Omicron, we must review all our models ”, indicates for his part Simon Cauchemez, head of the laboratory for the mathematical modeling of infectious diseases at Pasteur, and member of the Scientific Council. The Institut Pasteur is expected to publish new projections next week. “UK (which recorded a new record of 93,000 cases in 24 hours on Friday, Editor’s note) the number of cases doubles every two or three days, notes Simon Cauchemez. This is the pace we had at the very start of the first wave when there were no barrier measures. It’s worrying. The English modelers have published several scenarios in which the peaks of hospitalizations are higher than previous waves. There is still a lot of uncertainty about the severity of this variant, but this needs to be watched very closely. ” He notes, however, that “The reminders seem to keep a good efficiency” against Omicron.

It is important to do everything to stem the Delta wave, hammer in any case the health authorities. “It’s not so much that damming Delta is going to make the next Omicron wave less high, it’s just that there is already great tension on the hospital beds,” recalls Simon Cauchemez. The accumulation of two waves will be very complicated to manage. ”

A little help for the hospital

While hospital staff are already suffering the full brunt of the fifth wave of Covid-19 and worried about the arrival of the Omicron variant, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Friday evening that the compensation for overtime worked at the hospital would be “Multiplied by two” from next Monday.

“We have asked city professionals to mobilize to ensure the continuity of care during this period” and “measures will also be deployed for our emergency services, but what our caregivers expect of us is that we are prudent and especially that we vaccinate, “added the head of government during a speech to Matignon, at the end of the Health Defense Council. Friday evening, 15,410 patients were hospitalized, according to Public Health France, including 1,449 who arrived the same day. 2901 patients were treated in critical care.

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