Covid19. Is Omicron’s presence in France being underestimated?

The Omicron variant could be in circulation in France much faster than we think. While the spread in the UK is skyrocketing, with more than 37,000 confirmed cases since this new mutation emerged from South Africa, health officials in France have only 347 confirmed cases since arriving on December 1. However, the number of positive cases is skyrocketing, with 50,000 positive cases per day in our country and a record incidence rate of 530 cases per 100,000 population. Although travel restrictions have been put in place in the countries where it is most prevalent, Omicron is spreading at a very rapid rate due to its tenfold contagion. The French figure therefore seems largely underestimated.

Not all tests are examined

The number of positive cases of Covid-19 is already generally higher than the numbers show. In fact, not all positive but asymptomatic people are diagnosed. In addition, people who test positive using an antigen test should theoretically be screened using PCR to confirm this result. However, not all, but only positive PCR tests are “screened” and thus analyzed in order to identify the variants circulating in France.

In addition, only some of the PCR tests are examined, which usually provides a representative picture of the epidemic situation. By December 12-16, 22% of those tests were screened, or nearly 100,000 tests, so Public Health France.

7% of Omicron cases in France?

However, screening is not enough to determine whether or not a person has tested positive for the Omicron variant. At present, the examined samples which do not contain any mutations symbolic for the other variants (L452R for the Delta, E484Q for the Kappa, another Indian variant), are regarded as “possible cases” of the Omicron variant. Last week there were around 7% of the “possible cases”: The Delta variant was in. proven 93% of positive cases between December 10th and 16th. A proportion that is only increasing: Between December 12th and 6th, Delta still accounted for 97% of positive PCR tests. Results that may give an indication of how quickly Omicron is spreading.

In addition, only 80% of the tests in le-de-France contain the mutation of the delta variant. Could it be that 20% of positive cases in this region are due to Omicron? In the Pays de la Loire region, Delta has a presence of 88%, in Normandy 92% and in Auvergne Rhône-Alpes 95%. Omicron could have largely started to conquer the territories by now.

But to be sure that these cases really have something to do with the South African variant, sequencing, a more complex, expensive and time-consuming analysis is necessary. This operation takes about ten days on average: the positive cases identified yesterday cannot therefore be counted today, which makes it difficult to react to the numbers.

About 12,000 positive PCR tests are sequenced per week, so Public Health France. This is enough to keep track of the virus’s evolution, according to the World Health Organization, which recommends 5% sequencing. However, our UK neighbors do much larger sequencing, according to about 20% of positive tests OurWorldInData. Omicron’s numbers in the UK therefore seem more impressive. In France, however, a new screening method is to be implemented this week, which takes more information about the Omicron variant into account in order to have a more precise overview of its development, so release.

Potential majority in early January

Health Minister Olivier Véran estimated on France Inter on Saturday that the Omicron variant could become the majority in France in January. “If it is 10% of Omicron variant cases in our country today, it will be 25 or 30% next week, and that means it will be the majority in two weeks,” he said. An observation shared by the Scientific Council, which stated on December 13th that this new variant could gradually replace “the Delta variant in the first few weeks of 2022”.

In The Parisian Last Thursday, the head of the intensive care unit at the Saint-Antoine Hospital (AP-HP), Bertrand Guidet, estimated for his part “between 2,000 and 3,000” the cases of Omicron in France. He therefore adds another zero to the 310 confirmed cases last week. Worldwide, the WHO estimates that the number of people affected by this highly contagious variant doubles every two to three days.

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