In addition to the entry into force of the vaccination pass from Monday – instead of the health pass (except for minors and healthcare establishments) – Prime Minister Jean Castex detailed Thursday evening a plan to end health restrictions from the beginning of February .
Rushed restrictions relief?
On the menu: the end of the obligation to wear a mask outdoors – widely deemed useless – such as compulsory telework; new reduction in the health protocol at school, and return to normal in bars, restaurants and concert halls. Nightclubs will reopen on February 16… just in time for the winter school holidays.
So many decisions that surprised in a context where, far from the peak still hoped for in recent days, the health situation is deteriorating week after week in the country:
- The number of daily contaminations confirmed by a test is more than 300,000 on average
- For the third day in a row, France recorded more than 400,000 new cases on Thursday
- Critical care services record a slight drop in the number of patients, which remains very high (nearly 4,000 people)
- In conventional hospitalization, the increase continues and the number of patients is approaching the records of previous waves
- The number of daily deaths continues to increase and is approaching an average of 250 deaths per day
- Nine children under the age of 10 have died from Covid since the beginning of January, the same as all of 2021
- Finally, France is with Denmark and Israel among the only countries to record more than 5000 contaminations per million inhabitants every day.
He thus believes that hospitals are likely to absorb the current surge in the number of patients, but on the condition that the French remain vigilant in terms of barrier gestures.
Projections suggest that the impact on the healthcare system could be managed if, and only if, the reduction of contacts and the maintenance of barrier gestures continue during the coming weeks.
The Scientific Council, Wednesday
An alarming epidemic level
Similarly, the Scientific Council is concerned about an alarming level of the epidemic currently, with no significant improvement for hospitals before… two months:
The 5th wave linked to the Omicron variant remains at a very high level at the national level with an epidemic resurgence possibly linked to the resumption of school life. Its impact on the healthcare system will continue until mid-March 2022.
According to the Scientific Council, “the epidemic resumption/continuation observed in mid-January 2022 is probably multifactorial, partly linked to very active circulation of the virus in primary schools, kindergartens, and crèches”.
Jean Castex however announced Thursday evening a new reduction in the health protocol in schools for the start of the winter holidays – the current rules being almost non-existent.
On the contrary, the authority supposed to guide the government in its choices advocated “additional means […] in order to strengthen health protocols for the prevention and screening of infections in schools and nurseries”.
Currently, screening relies only on parents, and only on self-tests, deemed unreliable against the Omicron variant.
“It will also be necessary to ensure that fragile people living in contact with children or their parents are best protected from the risk of infection during this critical period (avoiding contacts, barrier gestures and vaccination)”, concludes on the subject. the Scientific Council. A point absolutely not addressed by Jean Castex.
And to warn that “during this period, the number of patients in intensive care and critical care will remain high, with partial occupancy of these beds by patients who have been infected with the Delta variant. We are currently at nearly 4,000 Covid patients in critical care and these figures will remain high in certain regions of the south of France even if the overall situation is under control”.
Mismatch between the situation and the announcements
Then, the Scientific Council is concerned about the continuation of deprogramming and other postponements of surgical and medical interventions for this period and is counting on measures to “limit” it, “a major issue” in terms of public health.
Given the high level of the epidemic, it is desirable to “continue the current strategy” of screening, in particular to anticipate the decline of the Omicron wave and the epidemic evolution which will follow.
A report and recommendations which seem to be out of step with the decisions announced Thursday evening by Jean Castex, which some already see as relief for the presidential campaign. Emmanuel Macron has not yet formalized his intention to represent himself – or not.
The choices announced by the Prime Minister correspond almost in all respects with those of Boris Johnson, across the Channel. With, at least, one major difference: with an equivalent population, the Omicron wave reached its peak in the United Kingdom at a level three times lower than that of France, despite massive screening. And Boris Johnson announced the end of the restrictions several days after the peak, which has largely passed.
Among the few points on which the Scientific Council and the government seem to agree, vaccination: the body recommends continuing “at the same pace the vaccination policy for the booster dose”.
The scientific council thus considers that “the short-term installation of the vaccination pass (justified in this context) should also make it possible to increase the primary vaccination in the non-vaccinated, in particular at risk”.