Covid: lockdown exit is “way too soon”, epidemiologist Catherine Hill thinks

Published by Laurent P. · Published on 22 April 2021 at 14h30
Despite a very slight decline in Covid infections, and while the government is pursuing their goal to lift lockdown by mid-May, epidemiologist and biostatistician Catherine Hill explained in an interview with L’Express it was way too soon for such measures, or be subject to an epidemic outbreak.

Too soon to lift lockdown in the country despite the improvement in the Covid vaccination campaign and sunny days coming up? This is what epidemiologist and biostatistician Catherine Hill explained in an interview with L'Express – released this Thursday April 22, 2021 – while a slight decline in infections has been noticed and the government intends to stick to the calendar lifting lockdown by mid-May.

It’s way too soon”, she says. She goes on: “the decision clearly is politics-focused, because no lockdown is lifted amid a peak, which is obviously totally unreasonable. The virus still circulates too much”. She comes up with a concrete example: “in the past seven days, an average 443 people have been placed in intensive care every day, which is still far above the November peak. The death toll remains very high as well”.

It seems the decline is not enough, even by mid-May, and despite the improving vaccination campaign. Why? The slow deliveries of vaccines. “In the meantime, the death toll will keep on rising”, Hill says. But vaccination remains the most effective method to get rid of the virus: “it reduced the significant size of the wave in elderly people. Mid-November, there were 200 deaths per day in nursing homes, and now, there are seven a day”, the epidemiologist adds.

Premature lockdown-exit likely to cause an outbreak

By lifting lockdown in mid-May, the risk is “the epidemic to go on again”, she adds. Why? “Children will return to school; they and their parents will see new people. It will make the virus circulate more. Furthermore, there are not enough people vaccinated to make the virus stop”. A problem lays in testing as well, which could contribute to the epidemic surge: “we are currently looking for the virus in symptomatic people and then in their contacts. But symptoms only show five days after contamination, and people are contagious before being symptomatic”.

The epidemiologist goes on: “In France, at the moment, asymptomatic people are tested two days following symptoms and are given results the day after. Most people are not contagious over twelve days, and the contagiousness peak is noticed at the moment the symptoms appear, so, when they are told they tested positive, they are almost no longer contagious”. The ideal solution would be: “massively testing the people, because there are people who do not know they are contagious, because they have no symptoms.  As long as we haven’t done so, the epidemic continues”.

On that matter, the Scientific Committee agrees, saying this Thursday April 22 they recommend the use of self-test kits in schools, as soon as they reopen. An appreciated measure, but likely to be not enough to curb the spread of the epidemic.

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