Covid-19: “We must stem the Delta wave before the Omicron wave breaks”

Professor Antoine Flahault, epidemiologist and director of the Institute of Global Health (University of Geneva), is concerned about the extreme transmissibility of the Omicron variant, which the French government does not take full measure according to him.

The British are facing a “tidal wave” of new infections with the Omicron variant. Should we expect a comparable outbreak in France?

This new variant, it should be remembered, remains a coronavirus of the SARS-CoV-2 family. This means that all measures taken today against the Delta variant are effective against Omicron – with a few exceptions, especially for certain treatments with monoclonal antibodies. The properties of SARS-CoV-2 are known, in particular its extreme dispersal power: a single infected person can infect up to a hundred others. This is true for coronaviruses, for SARS-CoV-2 in particular, and even more so for its variant Omicron.

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How to explain the differences in the dissemination of the virus between the United Kingdom and France?

During the emergence of such a contagious variant, notable differences can be linked to the appearance of clusters. In addition, on July 19, the UK adopted a strategy diametrically opposed to that of France, as the two countries faced the start of a summer wave linked to the Delta variant. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson then lifted all restrictions taken across the Channel. Supported by his scientific advisers, he bet on sufficient vaccine protection for his country to counter this wave. At that time, nearly 70% of the British were vaccinated, against less than 60% of the French.

In reverse of this decision, the President of the French Republic, a week earlier, announced a new series of control measures: vaccination obligation for caregivers, health pass extended to bars, restaurants and trains from August … fundamentally, the luck of the French, paradoxically, is that they were not able to make the same bet as the British this summer.

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Why did the latter turn out, a posteriori, so hazardous?

In the United Kingdom, contamination by the Delta variant remained on a high plateau all summer and has hardly ceased to increase thereafter. The current incidence, across the Channel, is equivalent to our current peak in France: on December 14, 60,000 cases were declared there, against 50,000 to 55,000 cases daily in France (on average smoothed over the week). However, there is a big difference. The Dantesque wave linked to the Omicron variant that the British are currently undergoing has been added to an extremely tense situation linked to Delta. France has experienced a real decrease in the epidemic from August 15, even if the fifth wave has been sweeping there since the end of October. But this seems to be coming to a peak soon, in terms of new cases.

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Covid-19: “We must stem the Delta wave before the Omicron wave breaks”