According to the study published Monday, the strict blocking measures introduced in France on March 17 had a “massive impact” on the spread of the pandemic, leading to an 84% reduction in transmission with an index of reproduction of the virus passing from 3.3 to 0.5.
President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that the sequestration measures would be gradually lifted from May 11 but remained vague on the details. Large gatherings, including festivals and public places, including theaters and cinemas, will remain closed until at least mid-July, said Macron.
The government has promised to release a more comprehensive plan by the end of the month, outlining which sectors of the economy will be allowed to open during the day.
He also called on those most vulnerable to the disease – such as the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses – to voluntarily extend their lockout, but ruled out making it mandatory.
The Pasteur Institute estimates that 3.7 million people – 5.7% of the population – will have been infected with COVID-19 by May 11.
“Assuming a basic reproductive number of R0 = 3.3, it would take approximately 70% of the population to be immunized for the epidemic to be controlled solely by immunity. Our results therefore strongly suggest that, without a vaccine, herd immunity of their own free will be insufficient to avoid a second wave at the end of the lockout, “warned the scientists.
They stressed that “effective control measures must be maintained beyond May 11”.
France has been hit hard by the pandemic, with more than 20,000 deaths – the fourth largest national death toll in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Almost two-thirds of the deaths were seen in hospitals, the rest being recorded in nursing homes across the country.
World health experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have stressed that it is unlikely that a vaccine will be ready to be tested for at least a year and that much remains unknown about the virus, including how long people are immune to it after recovering from it.
Several Asian countries, including South Korea, have reported that several patients recovered with COVID-19 were again positive.
WHO has advised countries around the world to maintain containment measures for as long as possible, stressing that the best way to fight the pandemic is to “test, test, test” people and aggressively seek out contacts of those which have been shown to be positive.
The French government, which has been pressured by the lack of protective equipment and test kits, has said that 500,000 people a week should be able to be tested by May 11. Macron, however, said in his televised speech that “we will not test every Frenchman – it would make no sense. “
Several European countries have already started to relax the restrictions, including Germany, Austria, Spain and Denmark.