Following a recent sharp drop in the number of coronavirus cases in the wake of the restrictive measures, new infections have spiked again in France, signalling that the battle against the health crisis in the world’s fifth worst infected country was far from over, experts warned.
French health authorities reported 15,674 new cases on Friday, which increased the overall infection tally to 2,499,465, reports Xinhua news agency.
The number of fatalities exceeded 60,000 for the first time after an additional 610 people died in the past 24 hours, the Public Health Agency said, adding the total death toll now stood at 60,343.
The Covid-19 reproduction rate (R0) is slightly above one almost across the whole country, which means that each person who has the disease will transmit it to more than one person.
The accelerated spread of the virus came as no surprise to Arnaud Fontanet, an epidemiologist at the Pasteur Institute, one of country’s main scientific research centres.
“As soon as we ease the restrictions, the virus begins to circulate again… If more than half of the population is not immune, the virus will continue to circulate,” he said.
The number of people who tested positive for the virus in a single day reached an all-time high of 60,486 on November 6. The current average is 10,000.
However, the downward trend has been flattening after shops were allowed to reopen on November 28.
In the past two weeks, France reported between 11,000 and 14,000 new cases per day, well above the target of 5,000 set by the government for further easing the restrictive measures.
“The fall in infections has stopped and we are entering a risky period of Christmas holidays… We will have a very tense situation, which will continue over the first quarter of 2021,” Fontanet told France Inter radio.
“Unfortunately, I do not see an improvement in the short term because the vaccination’s impact will only be felt at the end of the first half of the year,” he said.
According to research conducted by the Pasteur Institute on a sample of 25,600 infected people, 45 per cent had caught the virus after sharing dinner with family, and 53.1 per cent contracted the disease while they shared a meal with friends.
Under the current rules, up to six people per household are allowed to gather for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Families who plan to host elderly and vulnerable people should quarantine for a week before December 24 if possible.
The 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew currently in force will be waived on Christmas Eve but will be enforced again on New Year’s Eve.
A BVA poll released on Friday showed that 71 per cent of respondents would respect the “rule of six” (any social gatherings of more than six people will be against the law), while 68 per cent said they would not wear a face mask during the Christmas dinner.
Thirty per cent of respondents aged between 18 and 24 years said they would not respect the night-time curfew.