Increase in cases, new variants, return of the mask… Europe starts summer under the specter of “epidemic recovery”

With the arrival of summer nursery rhymes again this year in Europe, the increase in Covid-19 cases this year. The Covid-19 pandemic is being driven by new vigilant sub-variants of Omicron. “There’s a very clear outbreak restart there, linked to the arrival of new variants of the Omicron family, designated BA.4 and BA.5,” infection specialist Anne-Claude Cremieux told France Info on Wednesday. Within a week, the number of new cases in France increased by almost 50% (average over seven days) with the SARS-CoV-2 circulation accelerating in the last ten days in mainland France and a contamination rate now over 44,000.

Alain Fischer estimated that the return of mandatory masks in transport in France 2 was “seriously discussed”. “Personally – because that’s not my area of ​​business – I think it’s probably reasonable in public transport. Definitely for vulnerable people, and possibly the entire population, because by making a collective measure of protection and a small effort to put on the mask, we are helping to protect vulnerable people,” added the Chairman of the Council. orientation of the vaccine strategy.

Case increase in Europe

Many European countries have also faced a new momentum of contamination for several weeks. Portugal, which was first affected, experienced a marked increase in new cases in May, peaking at around 30,000 infections per day in early June. The wave has since begun to recede.

Daily infections in the UK are again near their highest level since the start of the pandemic. According to the latest report of the Ministry of Health, Italy also registered 30,526 new cases in 24 hours (Saturday to Sunday), an increase of 63.4% in 7 days. Germany suffered the same fate.

New sub-variants

As explained by infection expert Anne-Claude Crémieux, the recovery is explained by the arrival of new sublineages of Omicron. BA.4, and especially BA.5, spread even faster as they seemed to take advantage of the double advantage of infectivity and immune escape. A “lowering immunity,” that is, “the protection afforded by an infection or vaccine dose decreases over time,” explains this improvement, according to Mircea T. Sofonea, lecturer in epidemiology at the University of Montpellier.

“We’re facing a constant evolution of the virus, encountering people who already have antibodies because they’ve been infected before or because they’ve been vaccinated, and who must have a selective advantage to succeed in sneaking in,” says director Olivier Schwartz. From the Virus and Immunity Unit at the Institut Pasteur, Dr. “BA.5, and to a lesser extent BA.4, is spreading across Europe,” he adds. But “epidemiological data show it will be 10% more contagious than BA.2, so it’s taking over”.

Towards an increase in hospitalizations?

In mid-June, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) concluded, based on still limited data, that “there is no evidence that BA.4 and BA.5 are associated with increased severity of infection compared with the circulating variants BA.1 and BA. .2”.

However, the Center warned that, as in previous waves, an overall increase in Covid-19 cases could lead to increased hospitalizations, critical care admissions and deaths. In France, “moderate epidemic recovery” in recent weeks (the number of cases has more than doubled in three weeks) is seen with risks leading to “a small resumption of hospitalizations” and a “gradual increase over time” to critical care and deaths, the Professor said. Alain Fischer on Tuesday. “Nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units of hospitals,” said German virologist Klaus Stöhr.

New measures for summer?

The ECDC urged European countries to “stay vigilant” by maintaining their testing and surveillance systems. “In anticipation of future waves, additional booster doses (vaccine) are expected to be needed for groups most at risk of severe disease,” he said.

Some countries have already announced new measures. In mid-June, Italy decided to extend the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport (except airplanes) until 30 September. Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who is now positive, advised, “I want to continue to recommend that you protect yourself by making the second booster of the anti-Kovid vaccine,” especially for those most at risk.

Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the German president of the World Medical Association, advocated the rapid adoption of a “toolbox” that included masks, vaccinations and contact restriction. In France, the government this week urged the oldest to receive the second booster vaccine “as soon as possible”, against the background of “moderate epidemic recovery”. A quarter of eligible people received the government’s second booster shot against Covid-19, a “clearly inadequate” rate.