After the Covid-19 epidemic had been in a continuous decline for some time, it is now marking time.
If the increasingly important presence of the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron is confirmed, it does not seem to be responsible for this trend reversal.
According to the head of the virology department of the Toulouse University Hospital, Professor Jacques Izopet, if the increase is confirmed, it will be more to put on the relaxation of behavior and the end of restrictive measures.
For several days, the decline in the number of positive cases of Covid-19, which began last month, seems to be easing, even reaching a kind of plateau.
Some signals even show that the contamination curve is experiencing upheavals.
We are, of course, far from the 500,000 positive cases of last January.
But according to Guillaume Rozier, the founder of "Covid Tracker", which follows the day-to-day evolution of the epidemic, the rate of positivity of screening tests seems to be on the rise again, in particular in zone B, the first to have gone back to school a fortnight ago.
The Covid19 positivity rate seems to be on the rise again in Zone B, ten days after the start of the school year.
In Zone A it continues to drop, 3 days after the start of the school year.
Zone C: Back to school is today.
— GRZ (@GuillaumeRozier) March 7, 2022
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While returning to school may be a factor in the circulation of the virus in certain age groups, the lifting of restrictions could be another for the population as a whole.
Unless it is the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron which plays a role in this stagnation.
More than 50% of BA.2 variant cases
Especially since the latter is taking precedence over the initial BA.1 variant from Omicron.
“If ever we come to objectify this slowdown, we can wonder what the reasons are.
Is it related to different viruses circulating than those that circulated before?
The BA-2 sub-variant seems a little more suitable than BA.1 and it becomes preponderant.
At the national level we have not quite reached 50%, but in Occitania we have exceeded 50% of BA.2 among all infections.
On the other hand, I am not certain that this slowing down of the decrease in the circulation of the virus is linked to this phenomenon”, indicates Jacques Izopet, head of the virology department of the Toulouse University Hospital.
If we take the case of the Occitanie region, the BA.2 variant went from a rate of 0.3% at the beginning of January, against 97.5% of BA.1, to 54% of positive cases this week, while the Delta variant has been completely gone for four weeks.
“This change in the distribution of viruses does not impact the incidence of infection or the positivity rate because, while we were in the rising phase, in the proportion of BA.2, we observed a drop in positivity rates and incidence, ”continues the virologist.
Relaxation of barrier gestures
For him, this slowdown is rather due to the relaxation of barrier gestures in recent weeks, “or the lifting of barrier measures, sometimes anticipated by the population”.
"It is more this aspect that plays, rather than currently the emergence of a particular variant", analyzes Jacques Izopet.
However, people who had the first version of Omicron are not immune to reinfection with the BA.2 subvariant.
A phenomenon already observed but "infrequently" for the moment according to the specialist.
“There is immunity induced by BA.1 infection, which protects, but not absolute protection.
Omicron, whatever its variant, is a very contagious but less virulent virus, which has spread to many people, including those vaccinated with two doses.
But the positive point is that this immunity has been an essential element in protecting against serious forms”, estimates the Toulouse virologist.
On the other hand, if the people infected during the first wave remained very well protected thanks to antibodies at least six months after having had Covid-19, more recent studies show that this is much less the case with the Omicron variant.
Health professionals therefore hope that future variants will be in line with the one currently affecting France, which is not very pathogenic, and that it will not be confronted as during the summer with a version close to the Delta.
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