‘Nothing threatens the summer’: How France’s medical experts reacted to the reopening

'Nothing threatens the summer': How France's medical experts reacted to the reopening
Head of France's Scientific Council Jean-Francois Delfraissy. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP
As France moves into the third phase of reopening from health restrictions, case numbers are still falling sharply. Experts are optimistic about the summer but say keeping a close look at variants and getting people vaccinated remain key. 

Previously stages of reopening in France have often been met with gloomy warnings from experts that it was too soon – this time however, the French medical establishment seems markedly optimistic, mostly due to the increasingly successful Covid vaccination programme.

“I am not worried as long as French people stay reasonable in the new phase of the reopening,” said Jean-François Delfraissy, head of France’s Scientific Council which advises the government on Covid measures.

“We should, with this rhythm of vaccination, have a summer that should go on pretty well,” Delfraissy said on RTL radio

There is, however, still caution over the maintaining of health measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing. 

“Nothing is threatening summer at a national level, unless there is a huge slackening with a complete abandonment of health measures,” senior lecturer in epidemiology and the evolution of infectious diseases at the university of Montpellier Mircea T. Sofonea told Le Parisien.

Adding there was “no high risk of a fourth wave this summer.”

The high number of vaccinations – 30 million people should have received at least one dose by June 15th, well over half of the adult population – and the weather forecast have played a role in the overall optimism. 

“The number of hospitalisations should remain very low, in accordance with weather conditions which are not favourable to the circulation of the virus,” president of Predict, a company which works on the connection between the weather forecast and Covid-19, Alix Roumagnac told Le Parisien. 

This optimism comes as a surprise as Institut Pasteur experts had warned of a possible fourth wave in July when the government started to ease France’s strict lockdown back in May.

How did the experts go from a quite pessimistic to a very favourable outlook for this summer?

“Overall health measures had a much stronger impact on the virus circulation than what we had expected based on the previous waves,” according to T. Sofonea. 

“The closing of the schools had a very high impact, and the epidemic kept dropping when they reopened, as well as when the terraces reopened,” she said. 

Daily case numbers continue to fall in the country, even in some départments of the south west where the spread of the Delta variant has been worrying the authorities.

While the incidence rate had increased in parts of the south west, it is now dropping again. 

However, experts say a close eye must be kept on variants, which could provoke a fourth wave in September. 

“The epidemic could spread again in September or October, but this fourth wave will be really different from the others,” Delfraissy said on RTL radio, adding that the virus will be faced with “a highly vaccinated population which will be protected from variants.”

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