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COVID-19 RESURGENCE

Experts warn France to brace for 'extremely likely' second virus wave

French experts have warned the government to step up its efforts in preparation for a second coronavirus wave, which they expect to arrive in time for winter.
French experts have warned the government to step up its efforts in preparation for a second coronavirus wave, which they expect to arrive in time for winter. AFP
3 min

France’s scientific council that advises the government on coronavirus has warned a second wave is “extremely probable” after the summer months – with some experts fearing it could hit even harder than the first.

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In a report delivered to authorities on Sunday but only just made public, the 13-member council said three factors led them to conclude Covid-19 would be making a comeback in the northern hemisphere.

They were a low rate of collective immunity (estimated at 5 percent of France’s population), the manner in which the epidemic is playing out in other regions such as the Americas, and the world’s past experience of influenza outbreaks. 

Several countries now entering their winter periods, such as Brazil, are experiencing an uncontrolled multiplication of Covid-19 cases. The world’s second worst-hit country after the US, Brazil has endured more than 51,000 deaths out of more than a million virus cases.

Drawing a parallel with previous influenza pandemics, the scientific council said history had shown they take place in “two to three waves” before adopting a seasonal rhythm.

“Systematically the same thing occurs,” council member Bruno Lina told French TV channel BFM. “The virus emerges, a spring/summer epidemic breaks out as it spreads around the planet and then, in temperate countries such as France, it becomes a seasonal winter fixture.”

French children return to class on June 22, thanks to a lighter health protocol.
French children return to class on June 22, thanks to a lighter health protocol. AFP - FREDERICK FLORIN

Virus 'still accelerating'

The warning comes as the World Health Organisation on Monday announced the pandemic was “still accelerating”, with global coronavirus infections topping nine million.

“While it took more than three months for the first million cases to be reported, the last million cases were reported in just eight days," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, adding the greatest threat was not the virus itself, but a lack of global solidarity and leadership.

France’s scientific council, which makes a point of preparing for worst-case scenarios, has advised the government to be “extremely vigilant” in preparing the country for a virus resurgence. 

"There is a whole structure that must be built, maintained and coordinated,” Lima said. “It is still under construction, but compared to March we are ready.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned the coronavirus pandemic is "still accelerating", with cases numbers around the world surpassing nine million.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned the coronavirus pandemic is "still accelerating", with cases numbers around the world surpassing nine million. VIA REUTERS - CHRISTOPHER BLACK/WHO

Collection of health data 'justified'

With experts from the Institut Pasteur estimating herd immunity of at least 10 percent is needed to enable epidemic recovery, the scientific council said its predictions of a second wave warranted safeguarding public health data – in particular from the national PCR screening system used to monitor the epidemic. 

"This data will remain extremely valuable so long as the threat of a resurgence of the virus on French territory persists," the council’s report said.

Last Thursday, a parliamentary inquiry into the management of Covid-19 heard from four scientific council members who warned a new threat was looming. 

Council president Jean-François Delfraissy told MPs: “We hope that we’re wrong, but our role is let political decision-makers know what could possibly happen … Our principal message is to fight against unpreparedness.” 

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