11:55 p.m. July 17, 2021, amended 12:55 p.m. July 18, 2021
The Delta variant threatens our freedoms and the summer. On Saturday, the prefect of the Pyrénées-Orientales decided that bars, restaurants or beach bars should close at 11 p.m. from this evening and until August 2. The day before, the obligation to wear a mask outside in public spaces, except on the sand, had taken holidaymakers by surprise in this seaside department where the incidence rose from 41.5 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants on July 9 at 258.8 per 100,000 seven days later. That is well above the new alert threshold, set at 200 per 100,000. On Saturday, we also learned that in Meurthe-et-Moselle the mask will become mandatory again from Wednesday in the municipalities of more than 5,000 inhabitants most affected.
A dike that jumps over the Catalan border; another in the east. Who will be next? After all, Guadeloupe and Martinique are once again subject to a curfew. A word that we believed, since the spring acceleration of the vaccine campaign, that we thought belonged to the past. Saturday, Olivier Véran refused to play the game of prognosis for us. But its submachine gun flow, faster than ever, this dismal tone which resuscitates in memory at the end of August 2020 with the rebound in the Bouches-du-Rhône, leaves little room for doubt. The fourth wave is here. The real question is: how high will it be?
60,000 to 120,000 contaminations daily contaminations this summer?
“The epidemic dynamic is clearly stronger than in previous waves, even if we start from lower, assumes the Minister of Health. [taux de reproduction du virus, nombre de personnes contaminées par un cas] could reach 2, which attests to the stronger contagiousness of the Delta variant [+60 %], so that the number of new cases doubles every five days. “” It’s time to face reality, “decodes an executive adviser. Another exclaims:” It’s hot! “Saturday , some 10,900 cases have been identified, and the average over the last seven days has reached almost 6,700 cases.And health authorities fear that they will have to face 60,000 or even 120,000 new daily infections this summer.
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A concern shared by many epidemiologists, even if some put it into perspective, recalling that at the start of a wave the R is often high before falling a bit like itself; and that the dynamics of the epidemic are currently very unstable and forecasts uncertain. “If the R remains at 2, it’s a disaster, says a specialist. If it goes down to 1.5, it can go about well as long as you reduce the circulation of the virus by about 25%.” How? ‘Or’ What? “We can neither close schools nor encourage teleworking, said the same source. There remains the closure of certain closed public places, nightclubs. It must be done now because the beast is galloping very, very fast.”
Véran is not unaware of this, who is sorry to see hospitalizations start to rise again. “If we were all vaccinated, the virus would no longer find anyone to infect, but we are not there yet,” said the Minister of Health. Hence the logic of the health pass, to fight against contamination in closed places at risk, to avoid clusters. “
In the long term, with this vaccine rush, we have just taken a giant step forward… to avoid the fifth wave
While the bill on the health pass and compulsory vaccination for caregivers will be presented and discussed this week, reflection on the range of potential restrictions is already fueling the unofficial political agenda. “We are forced to think about braking measures or allowing better respect for social distancing,” explains the Minister of Health. Two councils *, one Monday and the other Wednesday, will give the government the opportunity to take a closer look at the gloomy Covid-19 weather. The outrageous remarks of some opponents of the past make health officials shudder. “If the past is deemed to be liberticidal, what will we say about a return of the curfew? Asks a manager. The risk of societal tension worries us. How would the vaccinated people react to new constraints? And people hostile to vaccines, why would they agree to isolate themselves again? “
But the worst is never certain. In the Landes, the first territory attacked by the Delta, rapid and massive vaccination played the role of an anti-Covid shield on the outskirts of the clusters. Above all, more than 4 million appointments have been made since Monday, which gives hope for 40 million French first-vaccinated at the end of the summer. Admittedly, it is already too late for this to prevent the wave from surging, but it can clip it, a little or even a lot. “In the long term, with this vaccine rush, we have just made a giant leap… to avoid the fifth wave”, comments an expert.
Another hope: Olivier Véran had indicated on Tuesday that the mask could soon fall, inside, for vaccinated people. A sort of “vaccine carrot”, after the stick of the sanitary pass, the principle of which has been approved by the High Council of Public Health. But the rebound in contamination has undoubtedly eliminated this possibility. The expert body had set a condition: in the event of strong momentum, it would have to be abandoned. Tuesday was an option. On Saturday, she seemed removed. Between the two, five days, which is the exact time it takes for the virus this summer, under current conditions, to double the number of its victims. And forcing our politicians to constantly contradict themselves.
* Contrary to what we wrote in the original version of this article, it is the Council of Ministers which is held on Monday and not a health defense council, which will take place on Wednesday.