Lifting the curfew, end of the mask outdoors: a risky bet?



A virus that recedes and a vaccination that advances, as the summer holidays approach. Was it this favorable equation that decided the government to loosen the screw sooner than expected? In any case, Jean Castex left the Defense Council on Wednesday, June 16, with two unexpected announcements: the French will be able to drop the mask outside from this Thursday, June 17, except in places with high density – queues, stands. stadiums, markets… As for the lifting of the curfew, initially set for June 30, it will finally take place on June 20, on the eve of the music festival.

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“The health situation in our country is improving, and it is improving even faster than we had hoped, said the Prime Minister, while 3,200 daily contaminations have been identified during the last seven days, a level well below the critical threshold of 5,000 cases per day. In view of these results, it is normal that we adjust our measures and certain elements of our calendar, while maintaining a high level of vigilance over the coming weeks in the event of contrary developments. ” The protocol in force in public places will thus be maintained until at least June 30, in particular the gauges in the places of restoration and spectacles. “Of course, wearing a mask will remain compulsory in closed places, at work, in shops, in transport”, said Jean Castex.

A permit to relax?

Despite these precautions, some see in these easing measures a license to relax, at a time when the caution of the French is already tending to blunt. “This announcement, so quickly and contrary to the speeches held until then, is a mistake in terms of health, Judge Professor Djillali Annane, at the head of the intensive care unit of the Raymond-Poincaré hospital in Garches. I can understand that the images of excitement and crowds in front of football matches, and the difficulties that more and more people have to wear, open the debate of the mask.. But with this decision, we send the signal that barrier gestures are less useful … but if the epidemic decreases, it is not over. “

” It is the right time “, considers on the contrary Antoine Flahault, greeting “Measures consistent with health indicators. If we don’t lift the restrictions now, then when? The virus hardly circulates any more, the opening of the terraces did not have any harmful consequences. It should be the same with the end of the mask outside, as well as the end of the curfew ”, predicts the epidemiologist and director of the Institute of Global Health in Geneva. “It is a risk-taking, but given the low incidence rate, it is moderate”, abounds Michèle Legeas, teacher at the School of Advanced Studies in Health.

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This specialist in the analysis and management of risky situations nevertheless fears that certain events punctuating the month of June, in particular the music festival, will give rise to new contaminations. “The mask on the outside was a form of aberration, but in certain circumstances, in particular when one is in the middle of a crowd, with reduced distances between the people, it remains an effective barrier to limit the propagation “, she emphasizes.

The unknown of the Delta variant

“However, in this kind of event, we tend to remove the mask regularly, to drink or snack”, again points the teacher. And it is all the more risky since the people around you are often complete strangers: “ Unlike friends with whom we have coffee on the terrace, we cannot ask them if they have been vaccinated, if they have already had the disease, if they hang out with a lot of people, etc. There will therefore be contamination, it is inevitable ”, she asserts.

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There remains an unknown: the Delta variant, known as “Indian”, at the origin of 2 to 4% of the last French contaminations, according to Olivier Véran. More contagious, possibly more resistant to the vaccine, as evidenced by the situation in the United Kingdom, this mutant raises fears of a resumption of the epidemic. “If we let our guard down too much, it could well cause a fourth wave in September or October”, thus alert Djillali Annane. Hence the need to continue vaccinations at a sustained pace.

While the vaccination of adolescents from 12 years old began on June 15, the government has set the target of 35 million French people vaccinated by the end of August. “A big effort must be made in Overseas Territories, because Réunion and Guyana are still on a high plateau, points out Antoine Flahault. Beyond vaccination, the authorities will have to put the package on the surveillance of the epidemic, still imperfect, as well as on border control. Without it, we risk having unpleasant surprises. “

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