According to Olivier Véran, the vaccination pass and indoor masks should be removed in mid-March, is this the right timing?

A precise date for the exit of the Covid-19 tunnel? This Tuesday morning, the senate commission of inquiry to examine “the adequacy of the vaccination pass to the evolution of the Covid-19 epidemic” questioned Olivier Véran. Who defended a “proportionate” reaction and defined for the first time conditions for lifting the vaccine pass and masks indoors. While some of our European neighbors have already lifted all restrictions, is France playing it too cautious?

A waiver of the pass maintained in mid-March

The Minister paved the way for the lifting of all restrictions and in particular the vaccination pass for mid-March. A point that should be decided last week, during a security council.

Indeed, the Minister of Health has defined three indicators that will be taken into account to lift the last restrictions. “The scientific council says that we should go down to around 1,500 Covid patients in intensive care, that the R factor [taux de reproduction] be permanently less than 1 and the incidence rate between 300 and 500 [cas pour 100.000 habitants] to be able to consider that we have passed the hardest part”. All these conditions could be met within “two to three weeks”. Or mid-March, in fact.

Why not before? “There is still a significant burden on hospitals: more than 2,900 beds in sheaves are still occupied by Covid patients, or 50%, qualified the minister. Yesterday there were another 290 deaths. When I hear that Omicron does not make serious cases, a disease that kills 300 people a day, there are not many! »

Second argument: according to him, this vaccine pass has encouraged some recalcitrants to take the plunge. If it is too early to draw precise lessons from the transition to the vaccine pass, he assures that “more than 30,000 primary injections were carried out each day between January 8 and 15. Since then, it has subsided, but we perform an average of 12,000 injections. “Checking done, it was more like 9,000 last week… and 7,500 this Tuesday, according to the DGS. And the minister defends a response proportionate to the health situation: “The pass has raised fear, opposition, anger. Whenever we can lift a measure experienced as a constraint, we do so. »

How are our European neighbors managing?

We will therefore still have to wait to be able to get rid of the masks and say goodbye to the QR code. However, one by one, our neighbors have announced in recent weeks the lifting of restrictions. From February 1 and despite still high cases of Covid-19, Denmark decided to end the pass. On January 19, earlier than expected, Boris Johnson announced the end of all restrictions in Great Britain, the end of the pass and the mask, therefore. In Portugal too, the end of the pass is imminent. Since Thursday February 17, the Swiss have been living without a health pass and must wear a mask only in public transport and health establishments.

However, it would be wrong to believe that France is the only European country to maintain restrictions, particularly vis-à-vis the unvaccinated. If in Germany, the Länder have adopted another code, it is equivalent to our passes: 2G means that access is reserved only for vaccinated or cured people (like the vaccine pass), 3G for vaccinated, cured or tested people (sanitary pass). The German Chancellor unveiled a relaxation plan in several stages on Wednesday, February 16: on March 20, there will no longer be any restrictions. After France, therefore, if all goes well. In Italy, since February, those over 50 who have not taken a first dose risk a fine. In Belgium, there are no plans yet to abolish the Covid Safe Ticket, equivalent to our health pass. Finally, Austria is the only European country where the vaccination obligation has been imposed on all adults since February 4.

“It is prudent to wait until the decline is deep”

Wouldn’t France have an interest in relieving its citizens earlier, those who refuse vaccination and those who are exhausted by two years of health crisis? “I am wary of not very useful international comparisons, warns Laurent Chambaud, director of theSchool of Advanced Studies in Public Health and Public Health Physician. For example, we have seen Sweden change its strategy. The trend in European countries is similar, the speeds vary, because they do not start from the same epidemiological realities and the same political assessments. “In addition, caution is in order: “Some will think that it is not enough, others too cautious, he continues. We must take into account the indicators that are improving. But even if vaccination coverage is important [80 %], it is not total and varies from place to place. These elements argue for a middle way, to allow people to breathe without rushing and leave the ability of the healthcare system to get back to normal with very tired caregivers. »

Same echo from the side ofAntoine FlahaultFrench epidemiologist and director of theInstitute of Global Health of the University of Geneva. “It is prudent to wait until the decline is deep before lifting all the measures, this makes it possible to consolidate the calm and also it makes it possible to further protect the most vulnerable, in particular people vaccinated but immunocompromised or very old or still not. vaccinated and at risk of serious forms, especially among children, very little vaccinated in France. Wearing the mask indoors for a few more weeks is very important to limit the risks for vulnerable people. »

Worrying news from Denmark

And the epidemiologist to look at Denmark, the first country to have alerted on the Omicron BA2 sub-variant. “The Danes are now paying dearly in terms of health for their haste in lifting their measures,” he notes. They are indeed recording their highest level of mortality ever reported. This is confirmed by this pattern of deaths in European countries, even if in recent days the figures have fallen again.

Graph from Our World in data, showing that Denmark has seen Covid-19 deaths rise in recent weeks. – Our world in data

Worried for the future? Olivier Véran was reassuring on this hot topic. “We are not far from 50% of contamination currently by BA2, first cousin of Omicron. We consider that there is no risk of a rebound due to BA2. »

If we can therefore hope for a “new era”, where the shadow of Covid-19 recedes, some believe that this return to normal should be an opportunity to learn lessons. “We have reason to be optimistic, but we do not know how the indicators will evolve in the fall, warns Laurent Chambaud, public health doctor. This kind of crisis can happen again. Hence the importance of providing feedback in the best possible conditions. »

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