With an average of 20,000 new daily contaminations and the sustained progression of mutant strains, France risks having to face a new resumption of the epidemic. Without betting on an eradication of the virus, Samuel Alizon, research director at the CNRS, recalls the importance of thinking carefully when deciding to implement braking measures.
Where is the epidemic situation in France?
Samuel Alizon Until the middle of last week, we stagnated on a high plateau, but it seems that the trend is worsening, especially in view of the situation in the Alpes-Maritimes department or in the Hauts region -of France. In addition, at national level, our team this week showed a rapid increase in the proportion of variant strains discovered in England and South Africa.
Should we be worried about a strong epidemic recovery?
Samuel Alizon Apart from some departments, new admissions are relatively stable. But be careful, because this reflects the state of the epidemic at least two weeks ago, in early February, when the variants were in the minority. We cannot predict the future, but in countries such as England, Denmark or Portugal, the generalization of variants has resulted in a very large increase in cases. As our study shows, these variants appear to have a 30% to 60% transmission advantage over other strains. What is worrying is that a situation has been allowed to set in where the hospital services are under strain, with more than 3,000 patients in intensive care. In addition, the population has already had to make great efforts under very restrictive measures.
What are the most effective measures to stop the spread of the virus?
Samuel Alizon Models suggest that the earlier measures are put in place, the more effect they have and the less they need to last. If you let the epidemic grow, measures like contact tracing lose their effectiveness. And, if you wait too long, not only are you left with the most coercive solutions, but you also need to apply them for longer. Unfortunately, on the side of politicians, waiting for the situation to degenerate avoids debate. To set up a strategy of low circulation of the virus from the summer, it would have taken a lot of courage to convince the population of the importance, for example, of having a contact tracing application or of wearing the mask despite the rarity of cases. Conversely, reacting at the last moment avoids the debate since there are no more options available.
Can a “zero Covid” strategy really get rid of the virus?
Samuel Alizon It is illusory to believe that we can easily eradicate infectious diseases, they are part of our environment. The dimensions of control and prevention are more important. For the moment, the most optimistic scenario would be that in a few years Sars-CoV-2 evolves into a relatively mild seasonal infection, but this can only happen if the population is sufficiently immunized.