Slowdown of the epidemic: the “good news” from Olivier Véran


A week ago he conjured up a shy “Thrill” . Monday is a frank “good news” that Olivier Véran wanted to share in an interview with the regional dailies of the Ebra group, including Progress. “The virus is starting to circulate less. (…) We are regaining control over the epidemic ”, assures the Minister of Health, who notes that “For ten consecutive days, the number of new Covid-19 diagnoses has been decreasing, the test positivity rate and the incidence rate have been falling. Everything therefore suggests that we have passed an epidemic peak ”.

The data do not prove him wrong: for a few days, the curves are weakening. The positivity rate rose to 16.4% from 19.6% a week ago. The incidence rate fell from almost 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 7 days at the end of October to around 257 currently. And the reproduction rate of the virus (the famous “R”, in other words the number of individuals that an infected person infects on average) has fallen below the symbolic bar of 1, which means that the virus is no longer spreading. exponentially.

Containment makes it possible to control the epidemic, which is on the decline. We have therefore left the disaster scenario, namely too light restrictions that would not have sufficiently blocked the spread of the virus.

Mircea Sofonea, epidemiologist

“Containment makes it possible to control the epidemic, which is on the decline. We have therefore come out of the disaster scenario, namely too light restrictions which would not have sufficiently blocked the spread of the virus ”, estimates Mircea Sofonea, lecturer in epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Montpellier.

The novelty for a few days is also that this slowdown is starting to have repercussions in hospitals, more discreetly. According to the Minister of Health, we could even have reached “Last Friday the health peak which marks the highest point in hospital admissions with 4,900 Covid patients in intensive care”. Public health France recorded Sunday evening 270 entries in “sheave” or intensive care in 24 hours, the lowest result for three weeks (it went up Monday evening however with 366 new admissions in 24 hours).

Give back a little hope

Faced with these relatively encouraging signals, Olivier Véran is not closing the door to reducing certain measures in the 1er December. But he proceeds with caution: “We have not yet conquered the virus. (…) Clearly, it is too early to claim victory and relax our efforts. ” A message he repeated Monday during a trip to Lyon, dismissing everything “Call to relax our collective vigilance (…), on the contrary”. All the difficulty is there: to give a little hope in this gloomy November, while not suggesting that the case is folded.

Because this is not the case, on the one hand because the tension remains very high in hospitals. “It seems that there is an inflection of the curve of new cases but the hospitals are always full, the resuscitations are always full, so we are not there yet”, summarized on Europe 1 Philippe Juvin, head of emergencies at the Georges-Pompidou hospital, in Paris. Nationally, more than 33,400 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized, more than during the peak of the first wave. And that number continues to increase. Ditto for intensive care – nearly 5,000, almost all of the initial capacity in the country. It is still in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region that the tension is greatest in these services, with an occupancy rate of resuscitation beds exceeding 153% compared to pre-crisis capacities. This “Sanitary pressure” is such that in some regions “It is necessary to transfer patients from one end of the country to the other by plane whereas it is an extremely complex mechanism”, recalled Monday Olivier Véran. Finally, in the evening, France recorded 508 new deaths from Covid-19 in 24 hours, bringing the number of deaths to 45,054 since the start of the epidemic.

Beyond the hospital tension, the epidemic situation remains fragile. Sunday evening, there were still 27,228 more cases than the day before (and Monday evening, 9,406, a drop due in part to the reduced amount of testing over the weekend). As Mircea Sofonea notes, “With an R at around 0.9, the decline is relatively slow”, contrary to what we saw during the first confinement. “If we relax the measures too soon, there will still be too much contamination throughout the territory for the“ test-trace-isolate ”levers to have the logistical capacity to identify and break the chains of contamination”, explains the epidemiologist. We would expose ourselves according to him “A rebound that is difficult to control; but this rebound will necessarily take place from the moment we have neither collective immunity nor vaccine ”. President Emmanuel Macron has set a target of 5,000 infections per day to get out of this forced isolation, which roughly corresponds to the number of cases detected in France at the end of August. According to Mircea Sofonea, at the current pace, “It seems complicated to achieve this by the end of the month”.

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