Professor Arnaud Fontanet, member of the Scientific Council, “expects a restart of the [coronavirus] epidemic in the fall”. The onset of bad weather and the persistence of a reservoir of non-vaccinated could justify putting in place braking measures.
This Wednesday, a new Defense Council dedicated to the management of the epidemic will be held around Emmanuel Macron. Sign that the times are on the decline of Covid-19, the easing of restrictions is on the program. But the easing could be only temporary: the prospect of a resumption of the epidemic in the months to come is foreseeable.
“We expect the epidemic to restart in the fall,” said Arnaud Fontanet, epidemiologist and member of the Scientific Council responsible for advising the executive, in an interview with “Parisien”. According to him, the scenario observed last year should repeat itself: after the lull in September and the easing of constraints, the coronavirus would circulate again and would increase contamination.
If autumn is a particularly critical period, it is because the deterioration of climatic conditions is favorable to a greater spread of the coronavirus, the scientists observed. When it rains, it’s cold or night falls earlier, we gather more in closed places, a known factor in the transmission of Covid-19.
“From now on, vaccination acts as a shield,” reassures Arnaud Fontanet, however. “It allows us to avoid more drastic decisions like curfews.” As of September 15, more than 74% of French people of all ages and 86% of those over 12 – the eligibility threshold – had received at least one dose of vaccine. However, vaccination protects against serious forms, which means that an epidemic outbreak no longer results in the flooding of hospitals.
According to him, in the event of an epidemic outbreak, a reduction in contacts of 20 to 40% will be sufficient, against 70 to 80% before. “Concretely, this means using the health pass, wearing a mask in a closed environment, accepting fewer requests, maintaining the test-alert-protect, a little telework when possible and more screening in schools”, explains the epidemiologist. Who warns: “We must be ready to reinstate the health pass at the slightest alert. “
There remains the persistence of a “reservoir of unvaccinated” where not only the coronavirus will be able to circulate more freely – vaccination reduces by about half the risk of transmitting and catching Covid-19 -, but also which could cause serious forms and “put the hospital under tension”, according to Arnaud Fontanet himself.
The scientist recalls in particular that 15% of those over 80 are still not vaccinated, even though they are the most vulnerable people in the face of Covid-19. “The reason is mainly the isolation and the lack of Internet access. We must continue to reach out to them, ”he explains. There is also, according to him, “a reservoir of hesitant who find it difficult to take the plunge and who must be reassured”.
According to a Coviprev study from Public Health France dated September 16, 87% of those questioned, all adults, were in favor of the vaccination, but 84% had already received a first dose. Among the reluctant, 60% said nothing would change their mind. The decline in first-time injections, observed since the end of July, should therefore continue in the days and weeks to come.
“Hard to say” however that the worst of the epidemic is behind us. If this is the case with the current variants – Delta in the lead – “it all depends on whether a new variant, more contagious, comes to play the spoilsport”, believes Arnaud Fontanet. “There is a family of variants that are more resistant to vaccines” although less contagious, he explains, like the Beta variant originating in South Africa.
Also, it appears to the likely scientist that the coronavirus will not disappear permanently. So, either it will lose in virulence and join the seasonal coronaviruses responsible for colds and tonsillitis, or it will keep its higher severity. “There are still many unknowns,” concludes Arnaud Fontanet.