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COVID-19

IN NUMBERS: Cases, hospitalisations and deaths in France’s fifth wave of Covid-19

While the incidence rate of Covid-19 in France is significantly lower than in neighbouring countries, a rise in cases prompted Health Minister Olivier Véran to declare that France has entered a fifth wave of the coronavirus epidemic. We take a look at the numbers.

IN NUMBERS: Cases, hospitalisations and deaths in France's fifth wave of Covid-19
A nurse takes care of a patient infected with Covid-19 in the intensive care unit of Lyon-Sud hospital in Pierre-Benite, on September 8th, 2021. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/ AFP

“Several neighbouring countries are already in a fifth wave of the Covid epidemic, what we are experiencing in France clearly looks like the beginning of a fifth wave,” Véran said in an interview on TF1, adding that the circulation of the virus was accelerating.

However, the health minister said he remained optimistic thanks to the “mass vaccination” of French citizens. “The big difference is that there has been a mass vaccination, because we have the health pass, we respect social distancing measures, so we can overcome this wave like we did the fourth wave, with few ill people in hospital and few deaths,” he said.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, French president Emmanuel Macron announced an expansion of France’s vaccine booster shot programme and made boosters a requirement for a health pass for the over-65s.

From December 15th, the health pass will cease to be valid for over-65s who are eligible for the booster shot but have not had it.

Macron: French Covid health pass for over-65s to depend on booster jab

The president also issued a call to the roughly 6 million unvaccinated French people to get the vaccine, saying: “Vaccinate yourselves to protect yourselves. Vaccinate yourselves to be able to live normally.”

Rising case numbers

The health ministry registered 11,883 new cases on Wednesday, November 10th, the second day in a row that new case numbers surpassed 10,000.

However, this is significantly lower than in the UK and Germany, which have recorded more than 30,000 new cases per day.

Incidence rate

The current national positivity rate, according to the Covidtracker website run by French data scientist Guillaume Rozier, is at 2.89 percent and the R-rate is at 1.13, which means the virus is spreading again, rather than being in retreat as it was when that figure was below 1.

The national number of cases per 100,000 people currently stands at 76, with cases spread out pretty evenly across the country, as this map below shows.

Source: CovidTracker

The incidence rate is expected to rise sharply in the next few days to reach 90 cases per 100,000 people, as shown in the following graph.

Hospitalisations

But with 75 percent of the French population now fully vaccinated, how do increasing case numbers affect hospitals?

The number of hospital admissions had been falling since the end of August, but began to rise again around two weeks ago. 

According to CovidTracker, 321 people have been admitted to hospital for Covid-19 in the past week, while 79 were admitted to intensive care units – representing a 25 percent increase compared to last week.

Deaths

An average of 35 daily Covid-19 deaths (in hospitals) are currently being recorded each week, representing a 15 percent rise compared to week, according to CovidTracker.

The number of deaths had been steadily falling since a spike on August 24th, when 117 were recorded in a single day.

France’s total death toll since the start of the pandemic stands at 118,023.

READ ALSO: Europe could see 500,000 more Covid deaths by early 2022, WHO warns

Vaccinations

Demand in Covid booster jabs jumped in France after Macron said a top-up dose would be necessary for people to retain their vaccine passes, the country’s main appointment booking site, Doctolib, said on Wednesday.

“The Macron effect” prompted 149,000 requests for shots, most during and immediately after the president’s televised address on Tuesday evening, Doctolib said.

Anticipation of tougher rules had already sparked 96,000 bookings on Monday, compared with an average of 50,000 a day in recent weeks.

France has one of the strictest vaccination regimes in Europe, with the passes required to take intercity trains, visit museums and go to gyms, among other amenities.

READ ALSO: France reimposes mask rules in 39 areas as Covid cases rise

That has pushed France’s overall vaccination rate to 75 percent, a level relatively unchanged in recent weeks.

Doctolib said only 20,000 of the Tuesday bookings were for first-time vaccinations.

In his speech Macron urged the roughly six million people in France yet to get even a first jab to do so.

He also said face masks will again be mandatory for all schoolchildren in a bid to avoid a new wave of cases.

The government is also currently weighing making vaccines available to children under 12.

READ ALSO: How unvaccinated people can use France’s health passport

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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