The week prior to the new lockdown - October 15 to 22, 2020 – Santé Publique France has announced an increase in the death toll related to Covid-19 by 45%. A scary number for the scientific world saying the second wave is hitting much more brutally than the first one. One shall expect a rise in the number of contaminations, and a rise in the death toll during this period threatening to last over time.
The Scientific Committee is worried about the size of this second wave hitting France and the rest of the world. In a release published on Friday October 30, the organization warns there are “many months ahead of us of an extreme difficulty”. Scientists have the “hypothesis the wave will come to an end by the end of the year or early 2021”, but fear several waves are to follow one another in the winter and spring.
Moreover, the intensity of the second wave and the limits of the effects of the measures made by the government are likely to ruin the holidays. According to scientists, it is unlikely France has taken control over the epidemic prior to Christmas. Olivier Véran already addressed the topic, speaking of big family reunions and celebrations that could be banned in December because of how difficult it is to control the virus as it spreads a lot and quickly.
A memo from the Institut Pasteur – shared by Le Monde on October 31 – says the worst scenario si that up to 9,000 Covid-19 cases could be hospitalized in ICU when the epidemic peaks around mid-December, against 7,100 during the first wave on April 8.
It requires up to three weeks to correctly assess the value of the “R0” (the virus’ reproduction rate) and reduce these uncertainties: it means the government will not get clear signs when they will have to reassess the situation in two weeks’ time. “As long as we don’t know what scenario we are in, it’s hard to know how long lockdown will last”, Institut Pasteur modulator and Scientific Committee member Simon Cauchemez says.
In Île-de-France, “a charge equaling the first wave is expected. With one major difference: the entire territory will be hit and it will not be possible to transfer patients to other regions” Paris Pitité-Salpétrière ICU head Alexandre Demoule says. “We feel like we’re seated on a pressure cooker about to explode” he says.
It will require many months before things get back to normal. Even though in the most optimistic scenario (with a R0 equaling 0.7), we would be on December 1, 2020 with about 3,000 people infected by coronavirus in ICU, more or less the same amount than today. “If the R0 reduces but remains close to 1, it will take a lot of time to have the hospitalization level go back down”, Simon Cauchemez warns.
The Scientific Committee believes the “likely” “testing-tracking-isolating” strategies and social distancing “will not be enough to avoid other waves past the second wave”. To avoid a third lockdown, sole vaccines and/or cures could change things. “Immunity in the population will take many months to rise significatively and start slowing down the rapidity of the circulation of the virus in the general population” scientists say.
To face the always-growing case toll to alert, the French health insurance now sends text messages to contact cases with guidelines and documents to download and only calls people that tested positive.