What summer are we going to live in France in 2021?

Will the happy days come this summer, or will we have to wait a little longer? – Mark Rightmire / AP / SIPA

  • While France is still confined, under curfew and with the majority of enclosed places closed, summer is approaching.
  • Will the sanitary situation be good enough at that time to take advantage of the sunny days or will we spend a summer linked to sanitary restrictions?
  • The third confinement could well save the summer season.

Switching to summer time, excessive heat last week and the first debates between friends to know which week to reserve between July and August for shared holidays… No doubt summer is finally approaching. It even happens very precisely in two and a half months.

The only big downside is that the health situation is far from being in good shape. Last week, nearly 3,000 new people were admitted to critical care, including more than 2,000 in intensive care, and more than 38,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus on average every day over the past week, in a confined France and under curfew. With a virus still so active, what summer can we reasonably expect? 20 minutes take stock (and don’t run away, that’s pretty optimistic).

What is the health situation likely to look like?

It all depends on when this third confinement ends. “The second confinement, for example, was stopped too early, leaving us on a high plateau of 10,000 cases per day,” laments epidemiologist Antoine Flahault. A plateau that does not allow the measurements to be completely relaxed, nor to protect against a rebound.

An error not to be made again this time. According to the epidemiologist, France has the device in place to bring down the numbers of the epidemic: containment, however sometimes criticized in this third form, should work. “Schools are closed, teleworking is requested – and reinforced by the presence of children at home, bars and restaurants are closed: contaminating sites are therefore secure”, Antoine Flahault list.

And in the departments confined earlier, especially in Ile de France – and again, the schools had remained open – the first drops should be noted, the positivity rate of the tests falling back to the level of the end of February and continuing to fall. The Minister of Health Olivier Véran evoked this Monday of the first signs of “shudder” to “consolidate” in these departments.

There is no doubt for Antoine Flahault that if it is maintained for a long time, this confinement will make it possible to drop all the Covid figures very low, as in May-June 2020, especially since alongside, the vaccination continues, and shows real effects on the number of deaths and resuscitations in vaccinated populations (especially in those over 75). According to Public Health France data, 9,296,131 French people have so far received at least one dose (around 14% of the population), including 3,109,768 both patients (around 4.7%).

Is a totally free summer possible?

According to a study by the Institut Pasteur published on Tuesday, a total return to normal is only possible “in the fall of 2021” and “will depend on the vaccination coverage achieved in the different age groups and the transmission characteristics of the dominant virus”. The study indicates that 90% of the adult population should be vaccinated – and the question asked for minors – in order to achieve sacrosanct collective immunity, the fault of more contagious variants. Olivier Véran also mentions this fall for a full return to normal, the government maintaining its desire to vaccinate all adult volunteers by the end of the summer.

This does not mean, however, that many locks could be tripped in good weather. “If the figures are as low as last June, there will be no reason not to experience a summer like that of 2020. We can hope for the return of restaurants, bars, museums, the end of the cover. -fire and travel restrictions ”, enthuses Antoine Flahault, for whom,“ this confinement, if it is done until its term, can be the last ”. Proof of this is that countries with a very low circulation of the virus did not wait to vaccinate their population to reopen non-essential places.

Especially since the summer season could “naturally” slow down a potential epidemic recovery. Not so much because of the heat as of the limitation of risky behavior – school naturally closed, many people on vacation, therefore fewer working meals, massive ventilation of rooms and meetings rather outside than inside. According to another study by the Institut Pasteur, only 5% of contaminations take place outdoors, and 15% indoors with ventilation, leaving 80% of contaminations to take place in closed and totally closed places.

Of course it will be possible to communicate the fact that drinking on the terrace is less dangerous than drinking indoors, “but with a fragile population vaccinated and a low incidence, we can also reopen the interior”, recalls the epidemiologist. Even make intra-European trips, since it is all of Europe which – having taken the appropriate measures – is experiencing or should experience a drop in viral circulation in the coming weeks. “It may be necessary to ban certain specific destinations, such as Brazil where the local variant is wreaking havoc, but with good coordination of low-incidence countries, we can hope for trips abroad,” he concludes.

How to avoid a wave this fall?

If the summer of 2020 marked the return of happy days, these were of short duration in front of the second wave which swept through France in October and November (and which had been rising since August). Compared to that time, vaccination should already have a major impact on severe forms, deaths and hospitalizations, which does not mean that some mistakes should not be avoided. “We must not wait for hospitalizations or resuscitations to rise to take measures, which we did not do last fall,” pleads Antoine Flahault.

By the time vaccination is fully effective in France with 90% of adults fully vaccinated, the slightest rise in incidence “should lead to reactions, especially now that we know better and better to identify the sites of contamination.” Vigilance will therefore be required, in order to be able, this time, to prolong the pleasure of the summer.

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