Covid: 50,000 daily cases by mid-March in France? Projections from Lille University Hospital

Published by Alexandre G., Caroline J., Rizhlaine F. · Published on 28 February 2021 at 14h07 · Updated on 1 March 2021 at 22h06
The UK Covid variant keeps on spreading across France. According to Scientific Committee member Pr. Fontanet, "if we go on this way" then the UK variant "will become dominant from circa March 1" in the country. Furthermore, hospitals are urged to move to "crisis organization". Lille University Hospital experts project likely boom in new cases by mid-March for the coming weeks. By March 20, there could be up to 50,000 new PCR+ cases per day.

How fast does the UK variant spread in France? This is the question raised by many scientists as the new strain – called VOC 202012/01 – is now spreading in the country.

In Journal du dimanche released this February 28, 2021, two experts from Lille University Hospital share their projections as for the Covid-19 epidemic in France for the coming weeks. By March 20, specialists Philippe Amouyel and Luc Dauchet - professor and lecturer in public health at Lille University Hospital - predict about 50,000 new PCR+ cases per day, variant cases included. As of February 26, Santé Publique France reported about 30,000 new cases per day.

With this in mind, the two specialists consider lockdown necessary. "We bought time where we no longer have choice but lockdown" Dauchet told Ouest France. Furthermore, as for predictions from last week contradicted by the factual decrease in cases, the professor warns against the dangers of the yo-yo effect. "As of February 15, we though it will go, and we did not even understand why it decreased. But there ultimately is no big difference between what happened and what we predicted. There has been the same effect in September, before the second wave: a decrease and then an increase" Amouyel told JDD.

According to epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet, "if we go on this way [...] it will reach 30-35% by mid-February and the hospital admission-toll will be around 2,000 per day. The variant will become dominant from circa March 1". This is what the Scientific Committee member said to Journal du Dimanche on February 7. He thinks, "curfew and vacations will impact the spread of the virus in France, but we shall not do with sole global data to assess the evolution of the situation" he says, adding that "it will all depend on our capacity to control the spread of the UK variant. It sets the tone; and it will show the new restrictions if need be".

According to a study released on January 16 by the National Institute for Health and Medical Research, Coronavirus English variant is likely to “dominate” in France between late February and mid-March 2021.

To come to such an outcome, Inserm relied on the hypothesis of a quicker spread – by 70% – in comparison with SARS-CoV-2. In a case like this, the British variant would be mostly major in late February. Infecting people about 50% faster, the British variant would dominate in France by mid-March.

Institut Pasteur and Cnam lecturer Arnaud Fontanet no longer hides his worries and fears a degradation of the health situation as the government has chosen not to call in for a new lockdown. "The government has decided to give one last chance to no-lockdown, at the risk of seeing the health situation deteriorating again, and be forced to call in for lockdown later" he explains to JDD. During this interview, the professor also spoke about the different highest risk places of infections.

On February 11, the Health Minister said: "pressure remains strong but does not increase. [...] The coming weeks will tell if the current measures are enough or if we have to resign ourselves to make lockdown-like measures. We do not gamble on the future, but we noticed we have already bought tome and hope to buy enough to prevent it".

But concerns grows, especially in Dunkirk, where the number of cases for 100,000 inhabitants has moved to 658, which is 3.5 times higher than in the rest of France. Same concert in Moselle faced with a growth in Coronavirus variant cases.

So far, the government has announced no new nationwide or local lockdown, but the Health Minister yet urged hospitals to move to "crisis organization".

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