Not to mention a way out of the crisis, scientists call for the greatest vigilance in the light of a decline in the fifth wave.
Could there be a wind out of the crisis? In sketching out their forecasts for the coming months, the scientists, with their long-awaited speech, are divided. And full of uncertainties. In the JDD this Sunday, the famous Swiss professor Didier Pittet, infectious disease specialist in Geneva and co-inventor of the hydroalcoholic gel, believes that the “absolute emergency phase“has indeed passed, but that this wave is perhaps not”the last“. “In the first phase, which was a period of absolute emergency, the wild virus sowed death in its path. It was necessary to erect solid dikes to curb it“, recalls the professor, very listened to in France for having piloted an independent mission on the management of the first months of health crisis.
This period being over, the virus now becomes “hyper-endemic“, that is to say “present permanently, chronically, without causing as much damage because many people have been infected and/or vaccinated“. And the professor concludes with a touch of hope:It will continue to circulate until the whole population has enough antibodies“, he says.
The beginning of the end ? For its part, the WHO itself spoke on Sunday of a “end of the pandemic“as a scenario”plausible“. “Once the Omicron wave subsides there will be overall immunity for a few weeks and months, either because of the vaccine or because people will be immune due to infection and also a drop due to seasonality“, estimated the UN body.
Faced with this optimistic discourse, another scientist, Renaud Piarroux, is for his part more circumspect. Asked about France Info, the head of the parasitology-mycology department at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital (AP-HP) deplored a certain sloppiness in public opinion. “Telling everyone it’s okay, it’s alright, no one wants to hear about it anymore“, he denounces. At the end of December, the Pasteur Institute published several forecasts, some of whichfrankly catastrophic“. “Among all the scenarios, only one model predicted that not much would happen. But it is the one that has been highlighted“.
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In any case, what elements do scientists have to outline, as best they can, their prognoses? First, a wave coming on the downslope. On this subject, everyone agrees. “This exceptional wave is not over, but I believe I can tell you that the situation is starting to evolve favorably.“, thus confirmed the Prime Minister by announcing the easing of restrictions last Thursday. Ile-de-France, which has been crumbling in recent weeks under record contaminations of around 400,000 per day, has seen this rate reduce imperceptibly for ten days. Another asset, a variant on which the first data are very reassuring: contagious but less dangerous, it would cause few hospitalizations. Faced with this hope, some advocate until the end of screening.
Yet the virus is tenacious. Inventive, tough, he never seems to want to leave our daily lives. “On the phylogenetic tree, the Omicron variant is quite far from the previous mutations. This leaves the door open to all predictions.“, points out Emmanuel Rusch, hospital practitioner in public health in Tours and president of the French Society of Public Health. In Denmark, a new Omicron derivative has been identified as highly transmissible. “Not to mention the duration of natural immunity: will it be 3 months, 6 months, a year? We can only wait for the research results at this point“.
A lot of “if” and of “corn», of «possible” and of “plausible“. Will Covid-19 become a form of seasonal flu after Omicron? “I’m not saying that’s wrong. Nor that it’s true. In fact, I don’t know“, slice Renaud Piarrioux on France Info. “We just have an idea of what’s going to happen in a month or two. Here we can be optimistic. It’s after, the problem“.
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And after ?
“If you meet someone who gives you a precise vision of things, he is the one who should consult“, comments, a little mocking, Professor Daniel Floret, questioned by Le Figaro. On any forecasts, the vice-president of the technical commission for vaccinations of the HAS is formal: we are forced to follow the situation “day by day“. “We all really want to believe that Omicron will infect everyone, that there will be herd immunity, minor mutations, until we reach a simple flu. But it’s only an hypothesis !he recalls. “What makes it possible to say that there will not again be a variant, more contagious, more resistant? No one knows. And all you hear will be pure speculation“.
Out of the crisis or not, what will the end of the fifth wave look like? Between reassuring and catastrophizing, Emmanuel Rusch opts for a discourse “careful“, corn “ not necessarily reassuring“. Because the way out of the crisis, if indeed it is near, will not be exempt from a thousand difficulties. First the delays in diagnosis, accumulated by two years of medical pressure around the Covid. “On thinking in particular of cancer, where there has certainly been a slowdown in screening, or even tuberculosis“. The health system, exhausted, will not regain its vigor all of a sudden. Then the long Covids, “an entity whose duration and quantity are poorly controlled“.
“You have to be reassuring to appeal to individual responsibility, but keep the devices that facilitate barrier gestures“, urges the president of the Covid-19 Control and Liaison Committee. For Didier Pittet, it will also be a question of preserving the reflex of systematic screening. “You have to test, test and test again. (…) The self-test in particular is essential before a party or a family meal. It’s a question of respect for others, a tool for raising awareness“, he insists.
Be that as it may, the period of epidemic ascendancy that is looming should not be the occasion for a relaxation or a victory too quickly won, but rather, according to Emmanuel Rusch, the opportunity for a new breath, to anticipate the possibility of a sixth wave. “Let’s be careful, because backlash is always hard to deal with“.