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The number of new positive cases is increasing slightly in France, while the BA.4 and BA.5 variants are gradually taking the place of BA.2.

While we have almost forgotten the health pass and the masks, Sars-CoV-2 infections initiate a rebound. Sunday June 5, Public Health France identified 20,542 positive cases in 24 hours, (an increase of 25% in one week).

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This slight epidemic resumption, also noted by our European neighbors, is explained by two reasons.

The first is the arrival of new BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants. On Friday, Santé Publique France specified in its weekly bulletin that if the BA.2 variant remained “majority” for the time being (94% of the tests), the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages were on the increase: 0.8% for BA.4 and 5% for BA.5 during Flash S20-2022, compared to 0.5% and 1.5% during Flash S19-2022.

However, these two strains are more contagious than their predecessors and have already caused recent waves in Portugal and South Africa.

The other reason pointed out by Santé Publique France is the abandonment of barrier gestures and health restrictions.

“We are in a transition phase, analyzes Arnaud Fontanet, epidemiologist at the Institut Pasteur and member of the Scientific Council at Le Figaro on June 6. We cannot yet consider that the epidemic is behind us, because the possibility of seeing a wave linked to the new sub-variants at the start of the school year or even this summer remains very strong. But we no longer approach this risk in the same way as a year ago. We have accumulated injections and infections in recent months. This should at least protect us against an increase in serious forms.

Should we be worried?

First, it should be noted that there is currently no impact on the hospital, so no more severe forms or deaths (even if it is too early to confirm this, given that there is always a 2 to 3 week lag between contamination and severe hospitalization).

Then, the cases of South Africa and Portugal are reassuring: “In South Africa, where BA.4 and BA.5 were initially detected, the peak of the epidemic wave associated with these two sub-lineages was mid-May and its impact was very moderate”, comments Public Health France. Same thing in Portugal.

Finally, in France, the epidemic situation could be even better than in South Africa and in Portugal where the previous wave (respectively in December and January) had been carried by the BA.1 subvariant, whereas BA.2 had circulated little. France had experienced an additional wave carried by the BA.2 in April.

“Gold BA.4 and BA.5 are genetically closer to BA.2 than BA.1, and BA.2 could therefore provide better protection against BA.4 and BA.5. The impact of BA.4 and BA.5 in countries which, like France, have experienced a sustained circulation of BA.2, could therefore be very different from what is currently observed in South Africa and Portugal”, analyzed Public Health France on the 18th but last.

That said, experts remain cautious. The Covid, whatever the variant, can be severe for fragile people, vaccinated for too long or not vaccinated. Also, as with each new wave, the experts are hammering out the prevention messages aimed at the elderly and at-risk population: get vaccinated or have their recall. But also put the mask in closed and crowded places.

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