Should we expect the UK Covid-19 variant epidemic in Île-de-France? The situation grows worrying, all the more so as this variant is highly contagious and more and more cases are reported. Even though the UK variant seems to be sensitive to vaccines already developed and injected, its spread speed is such that it could lead to a second pandemic, harsher than the one the world is currently experiencing.
During the latest press brief held on January 26, virologist at Paris Pitié-Salpêtrière Pr. Anne-Geneviève Marcelin confirmed the assessment of 1,080 PCR tests - conducted between January 11 and 21, 2021 in eight testing centers in Ile-de-France - enabled to say that 9.4% of these tests match the UK variant. "These results should be taken with a pinch of salt" but confirm "an increasing trend of this variant", she said.
Only two weeks later, as of February 9, 37.7% of cases are caused by the variant. A swift increase alarming medical experts. This February 9, on BFMTV, biologist doctor and head of Biogroup laboratory (Neuilly-sur-Seine) Caroline Gutsmuth revealed the Covid-19 UK variant represents over a third of PCR+ in Ile-de-France, according to a study led on 7,000 tests. "Unfortunately, 37% is the evolution forecasted by several people. I think that by early March it will be the main strain in France. It's spreading very fast" the doctor says, worried, as many of her peers.
This February 22, 2021, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) director general Martin Hirsch took a new stock on the situation. He said Île de France is experiencing a "week of truth" and "the situation has been tense for several weeks". "In January, the admission rate (in ICU) was 25 per day, now it's 50 per day" in the Paris area, he said on France Inter. As for variants, the doctor warns "there's a risk of more clinical patients". At the AP-HP, the UK variant includes "almost one clinical patient in two" and about "45% of PCR+ in Île-de-France".
Detecting the mutation of the virus is no easy task: testing centers need to use machines such as Thermo-Fischer, that can find the mutation of a protein. To confirm the result, they then have to send the sample to national reference centers such as the Institut Pasteur in Paris or Lyon. There, they sequence the sample, a process requiring several days to complete.
The threat of this variant is taken very seriously: from now on, the ARS supervises “contact tracing” operations in the event of contamination with the English virus. The Ile-de-France agency tells Le Parisien “possible or likely cases are now immediately considered as confirmed cases until there is no longer doubt with sequencing”.
To make testing easier, the ARS fitted the 21 centers in Île-de-France with Thermo-Fischer machines. Furthermore, all positive tests found in airports arriving in France are now taken up a notch with Themo-Fischer analysis, in order to find and isolate cases as quickly as possible.
Is Île-de-France turning into an English virus cluster? If English variant contaminations grow too quickly, the government might have to make severe measures. These variants may cause another lockdown very soon.