one month before the end of year holidays, should we be worried about the increase in cases?

The French Public Health agency has reported an increase in probable cases of Covid-19. The most vulnerable are invited to be vaccinated.


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A positive antigen test for Covid-19, January 7, 2023 in Vendée.  (MATHIEU THOMASSET / HANS LUCAS / AFP)

The resurgence of a virus that we had somewhat forgotten. The French Public Health Agency (SPF) noted “an increasing trend” cases of suspected Covid-19 in SOS Médecins interventions, as well as an increase in the positivity rates of tests carried out, in its bulletin published Wednesday, November 22. The number of hospitalizations for Covid-19 during the week of November 13 to 19 nevertheless remains very far from the peaks reached in recent years (1,228, or less than 2% of all hospitalizations).

“This recovery was expected, because we know that during the winter period, respiratory viruses – bronchiolitis, flu and Covid-19 – circulate more abundantly”, reminds franceinfo Bruno Lina, director of the virology laboratory at Lyon University Hospital. Increased circulation which is explained both by the physiology of the human body, which means that the respiratory system is more fragile in winter, but also by the fact that during this period, promiscuity in confined and less ventilated spaces increase.

A “significant epidemic” but less dangerous viruses

However, to date, there is no reason to worry, reassures the virologist. “The viruses circulating are descendants of the Omicron variant, which do not present the degree of danger of pre-Omicron viruses: they cause fewer serious infections, particularly in less fragile people”, underlines Bruno Lina. Thus, the JN.1 variant, which gradually replaces the BG.5 variant in France, “does not present transmission or infectiousness characteristics which would make it a virus capable of causing an epidemic wave comparable to the large waves that we have experienced in previous years”.

With the family reunifications induced by the end-of-year holidays, the virologist estimates that a “significant epidemic” is probable, but that the latter should not “massively impact the health system”. On the other hand, it should, like the previous ones, cause “serious forms among the most fragile and unvaccinated”.

In this regard, the virologist estimates that the vaccination coverage rate of the most vulnerable “is not satisfactory”. The vaccination campaign launched at the beginning of October by the government was indeed relatively successful, since as of November 19, less than 20% of those over 65 had received a booster dose, according to SPF. “By not being vaccinated, the most vulnerable are taking a risk”, recalls Bruno Lina, who advises everyone over 60, pregnant women, immunocompromised people as well as those suffering from a chronic illness to obtain a booster dose. And this, even when we think “in good health”.

Official instructions do not change

For their part, health authorities have not modified the protocols in force with the slight increase in cases. Since February 1, systematic isolation for people who test positive is no longer compulsory. The latter are nevertheless “strongly” invited to “isolate oneself”has “avoid contact with vulnerable people” and to “maintain respect for barrier gestures”, details the site If the need arises, they can obtain work stoppage, but the exemption system which allowed them to not have a waiting period has also been removed.

It is not necessary for contact cases to self-isolate, but they are invited to “wear a mask”has “avoid contact with vulnerable and at-risk people” and to “carry out an antigen or PCR screening test if symptoms appear”. In its last opinion on the subject, at the end of August, the High Council of Public Health, which recommended aligning the instructions relating to the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 with those relating to other respiratory viruses, also recalled that Vaccination was an effective way to protect against severe forms of the disease. Asked by franceinfo about the potential evolution of these rules given the slight resumption of the epidemic, the Ministry of Health did not respond.

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