France shows Europe can keep Covid-19 in the box after reopening

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On June 21, as every year since 1982, France held its Music Festival – a feat that few had imagined possible only weeks ago.

The new coronavirus which has paralyzed France for months and has not yet been eradicated makes its presence felt: at night on the street, music festival, featuring fewer and fewer concerts and DJ sets than usual, and organizers had to come up with creative ideas for safety measures such as musicians playing on mobile stages mounted on the back of trucks.

But the event, moving forward, is an indication of the country’s relative success in keeping the coronavirus at bay after its national lockout eased last month.

Since May 11, when President Emmanuel Macron ordered the gradual reopening of schools and businesses, the rate of Covid-19 infections has slowed – including in Paris and in the northeast of the region where the epidemic hit most fiercely. This invited Jean-François Delfraissy, France, senior scientific advisor, to declare that the virus was “under control”.

With social distance measures still in place and the wearing of masks made mandatory on public transport, new cases have lately stood at around 450 per day, from a peak of 7,500. Since the easing of the ‘solitary confinement of detainees, the weekly number of Covid-19 patients sent to hospital has decreased by more than half. France is to allow all businesses to resume and all children to return to school from Monday.

“We will return to our of the art of living and regain our taste for freedom, ”Mr. Macron said in French, June 14.

Similar promising trends have been seen across Europe. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, which monitors the pandemic in 31 countries, including the UK, every day new business has declined 82% since April 9, when it peaked, with only three countries totaling a higher number than in the past two to three months, during the height of the epidemic.

In Spain, according to the contentious official figures, only 154 cases were diagnosed on Thursday, against 373 recorded on May 11, when the country began to gently lift its own severe restrictions. Daily overall case rates have dropped 98% since the peak in late March.

A top Spanish public health worker said infections continued to decline, though, at a lower rate than two months ago, before the lockout was eased. “The trend is still going down, although more slowly,” he said, noting that a greater proportion of infections has now been detected due to better testing.

Italy was also detecting 200 to 300 new infections a day this month. Germany last week recorded around 300 cases per day on average, down from nearly 4,000 per day from March to April.

The exceptions are, in Europe, the UK, which was the end of imposing restrictions, and Sweden, which never implemented: both were still detecting more than 1,000 new cases in the week through June 17.

The emergence of clusters is a constant reminder of the rebound epidemic, however.

Infections in Rouen, northwest of Paris, have pushed the virus’ so-called R reproduction rate – above 1.5 in the region, which means a Covid-19 patient on average infects more ‘a person. On weekends, 1,000 people linked to a slaughterhouse tested positive in North Rhine-Westphalia, taking Germany’s number R from 2.88, from 1.06 – even from a small number of cases to begin.

Calella de la plage in Barcelona, ​​attracted large numbers of people on the weekend © Alejandro Garcia / EPA / Shutterstock

Reimposition of restrictions in South Korea and Beijing suggest caution is in order. The number of infections in France remains higher than what these countries accept.

France is better prepared for a second wave. During the onset of the pandemic, he lacked the analytical capacity, faced with equipment for shortages and had to transfer patients from Germany and Switzerland. As a result, the country paid a high price for the pandemic, with more than 29,575 deaths, one of the highest in the world per capita.

He built his analytical capacity at 700,000 a week and trained a team of 6,500 people to follow up on contacts. Like reflux disease, such resources are not fully used. About 194,000 diagnostic tests were performed last week, and less than a third of contacting tracers are still at work, followed by infections.

Yonathan Freund, an emergency physician at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, these operations were now “back to normal” after a flood of Covid-19 patients in April.

Chart Showing New Covid Patient Hospitalizations in France Slowed to a Net

“All signals [were] very, very positive, ”he told the Financial Times. “The epidemic has been stopped in its tracks, although we are not really sure why. . . If it comes back, we’ll find out much earlier and be able to take socially distance and test action and isolate people. ”

The pandemic is disappearing from the minds too. In Paris, the café terraces are crowded, traffic is back, and fewer and fewer passers-by wear masks. Romain Siavy, a hair stylist, said that some of his clients have stopped wearing masks. Government uptake of the tracked smartphone app has been low: In the past two weeks, only 1.7 million users have downloaded, or 2% of the population.

Some public health officials are worried about the epidemic picking up as appeasement sets in.

“The first wave ends in Europe and France, but the epidemic is far from over and the virus is still circulating in heterogeneity in the way,” Jérôme Salomon, an official health ministry, said. reported to parliament on Tuesday. “It would be irresponsible not to prepare for a second wave in the fall or winter.” He added that he expected more cases during the summer vacation.

Martin Blachier, an epidemiologist at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin, warned France that the increase in screening tests and capacity monitoring can not withstand a second wave.

“Brigade health can handle a situation like this where the virus is circulating at a low level,” he said. “But they will be overwhelmed if the infections speed up.”

Additional reports by Erika Solomon in Berlin and Domitille Alain in Paris

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