Covid-19: rapid decline in hospitalizations in France

ANALYSIS – All epidemiological indicators are now moving in the right direction.

The end of winter promises to be more serene on the epidemic level. The peak of the Omicron wave was crossed at the end of January. Since then all the indicators are green. The incidence rate remains very high, since more than 80,000 new contaminations are detected daily.

This figure, already significant, is surely underestimated, because the number of tests carried out has decreased significantly, from nearly 1.5 million per day at the beginning of January to 377,000 on February 17. As a result, the positivity rate remains particularly high, and nearly one in four tests are positive. “We also see that the R, the reproduction rate of the virus, is lower when it is calculated on the number of cases than when it is calculated from hospital data.analyzes Mircea Sofonea, lecturer in epidemiology and evolution of infectious diseases at the University of Montpellier. The decline in hospitals could therefore be less rapid than that of officially recorded contaminations.

“Transient and local herd immunity”

However, the pressure is released a little more each day on the care system. The number of people admitted to a critical care unit fell below 3,000, a first since the beginning of December. The number of people taken care of in these services is, each day, less important than the day before. This decline is very homogeneous throughout the territory, since all the French departments see the number of cases decrease frankly. The number of hospitalized patients is also falling in all regions, including overseas.

This momentum should continue; the latest projections posted online by the Institut Pasteur modeling team are very optimistic. The number of people cared for in an intensive care unit should drop below 2,000 before the end of the month. In this context, the country could even consider the end of certain restrictions and in particular the lifting of the vaccination pass.

“It would be necessary (for that) that we go back down to around 1,500 Covid patients in intensive care, so that we consider that the normal functioning of hospitals is restored”, thus explained the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, during a hearing in the Senate on February 22. “At the current rate, we will be there in two or three weeks. It would also require a low incidence rate, around 300 or 500 (case per 100,000 inhabitants, Editor’s note). We should reach it there too in two or three weeks.

“According to our models we could achieve these objectives by March 15judge Mircea Sofonea. And this, especially since the school holidays and the arrival of spring should slow the circulation of the virus. Despite this, long-term projections remain risky. There was a first relaxation after the passage of the peak of the Omicron wave which is felt in certain regions with a slower than expected decrease.

“We are not in the situation of a wave stopped by confinement, comments the researcher, but by a transient and local collective immunity. The dynamic is therefore very difficult to predict until we have fallen back to very low levels. Especially since, until now, the different waves have certainly been dictated by the seasonality of the virus but also by the appearance of new variants.

This positive dynamic is not unique to France. Most European countries are also seeing the situation improve. The Omicron wave has swept across the continent and killed nearly 100,000 people since early January. “Countries that have paid a higher price for previous waves like the UK seem to have weathered the Omicron wave a bit better than othersjudge Mircea Sofonea. Since the virus had circulated more widely before, the population benefited from stronger natural immunity. Conversely, a country like Israel, which began its recall campaign very early, seemed less protected. In the future, it seems important to target future recall campaigns, not only to the most vulnerable, but also at the right time that would protect against a future wave.


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