Covid: Rise in Cases, Lifting of Restrictions and BA.2: Are We Heading Right for a 6th Wave?

While the recovery from the epidemic is confirmed in France, as in several European countries, this Monday marks the end of restrictions related to Covid in the country. End of the mandatory mask, cancellation of the vaccination pass. Are these reductions, coupled with the resumption of infections and the dominance of BA.2, the signs of the start of a new wave?

With 72,443 cases of infection recorded in the last 24 hours, the numbers for the Covid epidemic in France confirm a recovery. An increase, which comes at the wrong time, since this Monday, March 14, the French can say goodbye to the restrictions related to the Covid.

New cases emerging

The numbers speak for themselves. The epidemic has been on the rise again for several days. In an infographic, Le Parisien identified the increase in infection in Western Europe between March 6 and 10.

In France we recorded an increase of 11% while in Germany we reach 16%, 17% in Italy and even 33% extra infection in the UK and up to 43% increase in new daily cases in Finland.

The location of the BA.2 subvariant

Became majority in France at the end of February according to Public Health France, the BA.2 subvariant, more contagious than Omicron, may be partly responsible for a resumption of the epidemic. On the other hand, if it is about 30% more contagious, it seems that its dangerousness is no higher than that of Omicron.

For Professor Bruno Mégarbane, head of the intensive care unit of the Lariboisière hospital in Paris, guest of FranceInfo this Sunday morning, March 13, the concern is not there for the time being, given the weak impact of this increase in the contamination on the hospital Services. On the other hand, he recalls that the BA.2 subvariant can pose a risk to immunocompromised or unvaccinated people.

The impact of lifting restrictions

Could ending mask-wearing indoors and lifting the vaccination pass have an impact on the epidemic numbers? Yes, according to forecasts from the Institut Pasteur, but not enough to sound the alarm according to the researchers, who in the worst case model a large increase in contacts from March 14, leading to new infections.

We are investigating scenarios in which the relaxation of measures further increases contacts from 14 or 7 March. In all scenarios, the peak in cases remains much lower than the peak in January.

— Simon Cauchemez (@SCauchemez) March 10, 2022

However, in this projection, the the maximum number of new daily cases would not exceed 170,000, a figure well below the January peak, in which more than 300,000 daily cases were recorded

Can we speak of a 6th wave?

If the impact of this new wave on hospital services seems minimal for the time being, Professor Antoine Flahaut is not mincing his mouth. †I think in Europe we underestimate the virulence of the new BA.2 variant that is becoming dominant almost everywhere in the worldhe explains in an interview with the Swiss newspaper La Tribune de Genève.

Important news!!! a new #COVID-19 #BA2 wave enters Western Europe.
VK (R-eff=1.21), CH=1.19; FL=1.19; NL=1.18; FR=1.13;AU=1.11 all experienced an increase in infections, without any rest after BA.1.
Two important questions now:
1. Its size;
2. The seriousness of it?

— Antoine FLAHAULT (@FLAHAULT) March 11, 2022

He also warns at Le Parisien: “Call a spade a spade: a new wave is starting in Western Europe“. For the epidemiologist, the beginning of a sixth wave is not in question. Two important questions now remain: 1. the size; 2. Is it serious?” he asks on Twitter.