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Why are confinement and curfews very unlikely for this winter of 2021?

On the coronavirus front, it’s often unwise to pull out the champagne too early and declare that the hardest part is behind us. Who would have imagined confinement in France in March 2020, who could have predicted that there would be a second wave in the fall even more deadly than the first, or that a third confinement would be decreed in April 2021, while temperatures were going back up and that the pivotal months from January to March had passed?

It is therefore with caution that the Institut Pasteur announced its forecasts for this winter. However, despite all the unpredictability that the epidemic may have had, researchers are optimistic. Their latest models, published this Friday, estimate that “the high vaccination coverage” in France and the maintenance of barrier gestures should make it possible to avoid in the coming months a “significant resumption of the epidemic, even when taking into account the cooling of temperatures ”, and therefore not to know again“ very restrictive measures such as curfews or confinement ”.

English wave

An optimism shared by Mahmoud Zureik, hospital practitioner in epidemiology and public health, particularly on the prevention of serious forms: “Even if there is a short-term resumption of cases, in the next 2-3 months, there will be no “there will not be a number of deaths and hospitalizations as large as what we experienced during the first three waves”, due to mass vaccination in France. As of Saturday, 73.2% of the population had a full vaccination schedule, including 85.1% of those eligible for the vaccine – aged 12 and over.

All the studies confirm it: the vaccine prevents more than 90% the serious forms and the deaths. Consequently, even if the epidemic were to recover, the number of hospitalizations would this time be decorrelated from the number of cases. In other words, we could undergo a new wave without saturating hospitals or counting several hundred daily deaths – the two reasons which have led to the most restrictive measures, such as confinement and curfew. This is what the United Kingdom is currently experiencing, with 35,000 new cases on average per day, a figure on the rise, for “only” 107 daily deaths. The last time the country had 35,000 cases per day on the rise, on December 25, 2020, an average of 522 deaths were recorded each day. And yet, France is more vaccinated than the United Kingdom, and currently it has only 4,500 cases per day and remains in decline, even if the decline in cases is slowing down sharply.

Stay under surveillance

If it wants to put all the chances on its side, France has every interest in continuing to vaccinate its most vulnerable people. The country still has 10.5% of its over-75s unvaccinated, as does 9.1% of those aged 60-74, the ages most likely to suffer severe forms or death. Epidemiologist Antoine Flahault confirms the diagnosis: “There are still too large pockets of unvaccinated in segments of the population at risk. Immunization rates for elderly people in Portugal or Spain should be approached quickly. “

The Institut Pasteur warns of a risk in the event of loosening of the barrier gestures, confirmed by Mahmoud Zureik: “We must all the same be careful not to completely relax the barrier gestures, such as wearing a mask in a closed place or in the classroom. school… Fortunately, the health pass is still valid until at least November 15th. “

On course for 2022

And because we can never be too careful, especially with this epidemic, Antoine Flahault advises better management of air quality in France: “We must invest more in France in ventilation – CO2 sensor, air purifiers. air -, because the transmission of this coronavirus is almost exclusively by aerosol route in closed, crowded and poorly ventilated areas where we spend several hours: classrooms, canteens, open spaces and company restaurants, public transport … “

With or without these reinforced safety measures, and unless a new variant appears, winter should therefore normally take place without too much damage in France. Enough to declare victory against the coronavirus and prepare to live a peaceful year 2022? It would be far too early to tell. “We do not think that we are able to predict so far in the current state of development of the mathematical modeling of epidemics”, concedes Antoine Flahault. If winter should be sure, the future remains uncertain.

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