Bruno Le Maire, Jean-Michel Blanquer, Elisabeth Borne, Roselyne Bachelot and Olivier Véran, on October 29, 2020 at the press conference of Jean Castex.


S Lemouton - T Da Silva // SIPA

Did we miss an opportunity to curb the coronavirus epidemic in September, thus avoiding a re-containment of the entire country a few weeks later?

This is what specialists think, a theory the government defends itself against.

The alert had already been launched on September 9, by Jean-François Delfraissy, President of the Scientific Council: the government "will be forced to take a number of difficult decisions" in "eight to ten days", he declared. .

The next day, Emmanuel Macron's clarification: “The Scientific Council is in its role, which is technical”, but it is up to political leaders to “make decisions”.

"A missed opportunity"

Then, on September 11, it is the Prime Minister who speaks after a Defense Council, while the Minister of Health Olivier Véran was expected.

While noting a "manifest deterioration" of the epidemic, Jean Castex does not announce any new prohibition measures and opts for a local approach: "We must succeed in living with (the virus) without letting ourselves be drawn again into a logic of generalized confinement ”.

"I can not help but think that this is a missed opportunity", sighs today epidemiologist Dominique Costagliola in an interview with AFP.

"This is the moment of change, the one that makes the crash inevitable," adds general practitioner Christian Lehmann on behalf of the collective Du Côté de la science.

"Proportionate" measures, defends the ministry

For Professor Costagliola, the epidemic could then perhaps have been slowed down with less strong measures than the re-containment announced on Wednesday.

“Taking things early is always more effective,” she says.

"If I have water in my waist, I have to get by with a solution that works quickly, whereas with water in my ankles, I can do something less drastic."

"At the time when these decisions were taken, they seemed to be those which were essential to the situation", objected to the Ministry of Health, warning against "reasoning after the fact": "We see today 'hui a generalization of the propagation of the virus linked to the drop in temperatures, everywhere in Europe ”.

“The decisions were taken in a proportionate, territorialized way.

When things get carried away, it leads to more coercive measures, ”the same source continues, citing the“ widely criticized measures ”of closing bars and restaurants in Marseille on September 26.

In addition, the ministry highlights “the important issue of the acceptability of the measures”.

In mid-September, the epidemic resumption had only a limited impact on hospitalizations.

What to make the public "falsely reassured", then noted Professor Delfraissy.

Predictable acceleration?

"It was clear that the epidemic was starting to start again among the oldest" and therefore vulnerable, recalls Dominique Costagliola, however.

"Perhaps we did not expect an acceleration as fast" as that which motivated the reconfinement, "but it is not a scoop that with the fall, it was going to circulate more quickly".

Strong obligations in mid-September would have "perhaps been politically difficult to pass", but "it would have been necessary to have the arguments and to sit down on the fact that it would not be popular", concludes the epidemiologist.

Observers then saw in the absence of coercive decisions an arbitration against the Ministry of Health, in favor of a line advocating limiting economic damage.

"This is not the case," we assure the ministry.

Holes in the racket

Even before this window, many observers denounce the flaws in the deconfinement started on May 11, which Jean Castex was responsible for implementing before becoming Prime Minister.

"There was no deconfinement, there was just the end of confinement", told AFP Dr. Lehmann, very critical of government action.

"Containment had a benefit, we left with a very low curve.

It was therefore necessary to deconfin by being cautious, by keeping certain measures and by reducing them only slowly ”, he judges.

Like others, he points to "several errors": the low efficiency of the device for testing / tracing / isolating positive cases, the fact that the measures were taken during the summer (mask made compulsory in public places closed on the 20th). July, then “systematized” in companies on September 1) or a recourse to telework deemed insufficient.

Finally, the collective On the side of science calls for a reinforced health protocol for schools, in addition to the mask made compulsory Thursday in primary school.

For Dominique Costagliola, "the past is the past and it will be necessary to analyze it cold once this crisis is over": "Now we are in a bad situation, we must face it".


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