Should France put the mask back on?

New cases are increasing day after day, a weekly average of infections is increasing, several hospitalizations are stagnating. Undoubtedly, under the effect of the BA.2 variant, the Covid-19 is in reactivation. The WHO and some epidemiologists also deplore the lifting of the obligation to wear a mask too early. But there is no scientific consensus on this issue.

After ten days of relaxation – series inaugurated on March 14 with the lifting of the obligation to carry – Will France have to put on the mask again? In any case, that is the horizon that certain specialists and the World Health Organization are now envisioning out loud in the face of the relaunch of the virus in the country this March. However, among their colleagues they also have detractors who propose a radically new deal built around herd immunity and accumulated experience.

eloquent figures

It is true that as of Sunday on the site of the Parisianthe Minister of Health Olivier Véran, wanted to show that the resurgence of Covid-19 in France was not going to surprise him and that everything was basically under control: “We expect to see an increase in contamination until the end of March, before a decrease in April.” Wednesday night, on the M6, Emmanuel Macron himself justified:

“We kept the mask on transport because we are overcrowded, we even kept the health pass in the hospital, we launched a reminder campaign for the most fragile. If things deteriorated, the president that I am would take responsibility for protecting me.”

the last digits, buoyed by the circulation of the BA.2 variant, are nonetheless striking. On Tuesday night, the French Public Health Agency estimated the number of new cases registered in the last 24 hours at 180,777, compared to 116,618 the previous week. the Weekly average of these infections already reaches 104,176 cases compared to 98,928 on Tuesday, 74,912 last Wednesday and even 54,609 fifteen days ago.

On the hospital side, the improvement continues but the drop in the number of patients hospitalized for contamination slows down markedly: on Tuesday there were 20,742, against 20,919 on March 15. Hardly, but this element of reflection is nevertheless decisive for caregivers as well as for the authorities, only in intensive care units the equation continues to simplify, with 1,604 admitted on Tuesday night against 1,632 the day before.

“FFP2 for people at risk”

But Yves Buisson, epidemiologist and president of the Covid-19 cell of the National Academy of Medicine, filled this encouraging perspective with France information Mercifully, prévoyant une immanquable remontée de l’affluence dans ces unités critiques: “Ça va arriver. On sait bien qu’il already a décalage entre les infections, les contaminations et malheureusement, la survenue de forms compliquées”, at -he explains .

As for whether France was a bit quick to remove the textile from its nose, that doesn’t do a wrinkle from the epidemiologist’s point of view. “Indisputably,” he replied, urging: “The pandemic is not over and we must continue to respect barrier gestures and the use of masks where necessary, especially for people at risk. They must continue to protect themselves.”

A situation seems particularly delicate to him, Yves Buisson also specified with Franceinfo: “Now we have to change the doctrine. The use of a mask is mandatory in public spaces, it was to protect others. Now that everyone has removed their mask, people at risk must wear an FFP2 type mask, that protects them.”

Poor WHO rating

The scientist fits here in the drawn wake the day before by WHO. During a press conference held in Moldova, the head of its European branch, Hans Kluge, listed for the first time a chain of bad students: “The countries where we are seeing a particular increase are the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, France , Italy and Germany”. Walking around to the back of the class, he left his assessment: “These countries have suddenly lifted restrictions from ‘too much’ to ‘not enough’.”

It’s also through the school that the mask is making a (shy) early comeback these days: certain establishments in Brest and Antibes he asked students to use it again in light of local viral trends, a possibility provided for by health protocol.

crest line

You might think the countdown is on. France, surrounded by the disapproval of international institutions, its health policy denounced by its epidemiologists, already reintroducing the mask in its schools, would only have to generalize its use again -and why not the last presidential elections-.

Except that there is no scientific consensus about it. On Monday, on our antenna, Gilles Pialoux, head of the department of infectious and tropical diseases at the Tenon hospital in Paris, thus estimated that the matter must now be played around everyone’s common sense: “We have a political discourse that says: ‘We we take everything away’ (…) and campaigns from the French Ministry of Health and Public Health that tell you: ‘We must continue to protect the most fragile, put on the mask if we ourselves are fragile’, these are individual responsibilities.”

rational optimism

Others are sharper. “The virus is there forever, however, we cannot always live constrained”, for example, Bruno Lina, a virologist and member of the Scientific Council, strongly pleaded in the last installment of the JDD. “On the other hand, each of us can continue to use it in closed or crowded places to protect ourselves and protect the most fragile,” she recalled however.

The virologist was also careful to point out that his optimism – he even confided to the weekly that “the situation should remain under control” – had some arguments in his favor:

“In two years of the pandemic, the environment in which the virus circulates has changed. We know how to take care of patients with Covid-19 and prevent complications thanks to preventive treatments. And above all, although it remains imperfect, the collective immunity induced by vaccines or past infections protects us against serious forms.”

An experience that does not prevent statistical outbreaks but protects us against the urgency of previous waves.

verner robin

verner robin BFMTV journalist

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