A health defense council is to be held on Friday, December 17 to examine possible additional measures to deal with the fifth wave of Covid-19. In fact, with the approach of the holidays, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant worries the authorities. This variant is spreading at an unprecedented speed, warned the World Health Organization.
In the UK, the number of cases is increasing eightfold every week. Omicron is already at the origin of 40% of contaminations in London and risks becoming dominant before Christmas. For its part, Denmark, known for its very good surveillance of the virus, believes that Omicron could be dominant in its territory by December 19.
In France, 170 cases of Covid-19 due to this variant are formally confirmed as of December 16, but Omicron is circulating at low noise. In view of its speed of diffusion among our neighbors, experts estimate that it risks becoming dominant in France at the beginning of January.
According to the first South African data – which however need to be consolidated – this variant is not more dangerous than the Delta variant. A priori, Omicron does not cause more serious symptoms on an individual level. The problem is that with this more contagious variant, the severe cases will be mathematically more numerous. The unvaccinated are the most vulnerable.
On Wednesday, Prof. Jean-Michel Constantin, secretary general of the French anesthesia and resuscitation company, estimated on franceinfo that with six million people not currently vaccinated in France, 300,000 patients could end up in the hospital because of the Omicron variant, assuming the low hypothesis that 2% of them are at risk of developing a severe form. Currently, 2,800 people are in intensive care because of Covid-19 and the government, which is based on data from the Pasteur Institute, indicates that there could be 4,000 at the time of the holidays.
And yet, France is mostly vaccinated. Despite the vaccine, Omicron manages to bypass part of our immune system, even when we are vaccinated with two doses. A study in South Africa has shown that, against Omicron, protection against severe forms drops to 70% with two doses compared to 93% previously against Delta. Hence the crucial role of the booster dose, which boosts immunity.
Be careful though: “The vaccine protects against hospitalization, not against the spread of the virus”, recalls Professor Jean-Daniel Lelièvre, vaccine expert at the Haute Autorité de Santé. With the approach of the holidays, it is therefore necessary to maintain barrier gestures, even among the vaccinated. This means: ventilation, mask and possibly test before the holidays, according to the recommendations of the scientific council.