Covid-19: isolation rules that are more economical than health

DECRYPTION – As of this Monday, new, less restrictive measures are imposed on positive people and their contacts. What to avoid the paralysis of the country while the epidemiological counters panic.

Seven days of isolation if you are fully vaccinated, ten if not, and the possibility of breaking your quarantine if, on D-5 or D-7, respectively, you have a negative test and you has had no symptoms for 48 hours: as promised by the Prime Minister last Monday, the isolation rules for people positive for Sars-CoV-2 are, from this Monday, lightened and harmonized regardless of the variant whose we are reached, announced the Ministry of Health on Sunday.

As for contact cases, they will have to isolate themselves for 7 days if they are not or incompletely vaccinated, the vaccinated remaining free of their movements, on condition of doing tests on D-0 (PCR or antigen carried out by a health professional) , D-2 and D-4 (self-test, which Minister Olivier Véran promises in the Sunday newspaper that they will be delivered free of charge in pharmacies… Without specifying how they will be able to obtain them while the shortages have punctuated the end-of-year celebrations). “The quarantine rules for contact cases are the same whether we are in contact with a positive person who lives in the same household or not”, also specified Sunday the General Directorate of Health.

France is no exception in taking these new measures: Spain and Argentina have increased the quarantine from 10 to 7 days for positive people fully vaccinated, and to 5 days for contact cases vaccinated not presenting no symptoms. In the United States, the duration of isolation has been reduced from 10 to 5 days for positive people without symptoms, and from 14 to 5 days for unvaccinated contact cases. Portugal has reduced from 10 to 7 days the period of isolation imposed on positive patients without symptoms, as well as on their contact cases. is at least as economic and social.

Omicron is too contagious to be completely stopped, except to return to absolute containment

Olivier Véran

From a health standpoint, it seems that the Omicron variant, which is gaining the upper hand in Europe, is associated with a shorter period of contagiousness than the other variants. This was indicated by the Spanish Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, when announcing the reduction in isolation, referring to “An incubation period (time between contamination and the appearance of the first symptoms, editor’s note) lower “.

“95% of contaminations take place within a 5-day window (2 days before symptoms and 3 after, or 5 days after the first positive PCR for asymptomatic patients), confirms P Antoine Flahault, epidemiologist and director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva. And studies have shown that the incubation time is a bit shorter with Omicron than with the original strain (on average 3 days instead of 5). But it is difficult to draw a conclusion about the duration of contagiousness of the new variant. “ In fact, the American Public Health Agency (CDC) specifies that beyond the 5 days of compulsory isolation, you must then wear a mask for 5 other days to “Minimize the risk of infecting other people”.

“Too contagious to be completely stopped”

But other reasons governed the government’s decision to lighten the rules: Olivier Véran admits it bluntly in the Sunday newspaper, “If everyone is in isolation, the country is at a standstill, which is damaging, including for the health of the French.” In any case, the minister assures him: “Omicron is too contagious to be completely stopped, except to return to absolute containment.”Jean Castex had already admitted last Monday that it was a question of avoiding “Paralysis of public and private services”.

“Due to the extreme contagiousness of the Omicron variant, the benefit on the spread of the virus from quarantines for contacts could be outweighed by the risk of paralysis of entire sections of society”, believes Antoine Flahault, who, if he does not comment on the shortening of the isolation of positive cases, considers it reasonable to release the pressure on contact cases. Because the threat is very real, in view of the dizzying figures of the number of new cases, daily exceeding 200,000 for several days now.

Saturday evening, Public Health France indicated that it had identified nearly 220,000 new cases in the last 24 hours. However, according to the old rules of isolation, even vaccinated people had to isolate themselves if they were in contact with an Omicron case or suspected to be. Assuming each of the 220,000 new daily cases had about 5 contacts, that would mean 1.1 million more people needing to self-isolate for 7 days, while many would not be sick. At the end of a week, there would be 7.7 million isolated contact cases (minimum figure, because assuming that the number of new positive cases remains stable). Health, transport, energy, food distribution, education, communication… Many essential sectors could suffer in the coming weeks. Especially since the 20-60 year olds, therefore the working population, form the bulk of the troops in new cases.


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