France is not yet done with the "triple epidemic" that has put its health system under strain, as the main sanitary measures to fight Covid-19 come to an end on Wednesday 1 February, which worries some experts.
After four consecutive weeks of decline, the flu epidemic began to rise again last week. In total, ten regions out of thirteen are still in epidemic, but the indicators remain "at a low level of intensity in cities and hospitals," Santé publique France said Wednesday.
"But this virus can completely reinfect people who have already had influenza type A," explains to AFP Benjamin Davido, infectiologist at the Raymond-Poincaré hospital in Garches.
The seasonal flu epidemic started early this season and was added to a particularly intense outbreak of bronchiolitis in babies, as well as a wave of Covid 19.
Last week, bronchiolitis, which had been declining since late December, continued to decline across most of the country. On the Covid 19 front, the decline also appears to be continuing. Last week, all indicators were down in all regions.
"Surprised" by the absence of an epidemic resumption in January, Benjamin Davido explains this good news by the fact that the population, which endured an eighth and a ninth wave in a row, is globally well immunized. "The question now is whether this immunity will hold with the possible arrival of new variants," he says.
"Currently, the situation is particularly favorable after a very difficult period in late December, which was the month of all dangers," commented to AFP epidemiologist Mahmoud Zureik.
"We can think that bronchiolitis is well and truly behind us; on the other hand, it has already happened in the past that the flu knows a rebound after a decline," he warns. As for Covid-19, "it has always managed to surprise us".
In any case, the health care system remains battered. After months of pandemic and this triple epidemic, "it is facing difficulties that seem increasingly difficult to bear", says Prof. Zureik, expecting an inexorable continuation of the "deterioration of the quality of care".
And, the human toll of this triple epidemic is not yet known.
Going forward, doctors are concerned that key measures will be relaxed. As of this Wednesday, the systematic isolation of positive cases and the testing of their contacts after two days, which have become obsolete due to the drop in cases, will no longer be required.
The follow-up of contact cases, via the "contact Covid" service managed by the Health Insurance, will also cease.
From now on, the authorities will only strongly recommend to people who have tested positive to Covid-19 and to people exposed to the virus, to respect the barrier gestures, to be tested and to avoid contact with fragile people.
"It's still a little light not to impose the wearing of a mask to a positive person", regrets Prof. Mahmoud Zureik, "It would be the right time to carry out in-depth policies on ventilation, aeration, vaccination and barrier gestures in closed places and unfortunately this is not the case".