French experts warn of 'no miracle solution' as Omicron strain arrives in Paris

·2 min read

As the first case of Covid-19's Omicron mutation is reported in France, the president of France's scientific council that advises the government has said there is no "miracle solution" to fend of the fifth coronavirus wave.

The first case of a person infected with the Omicron variant was reported in Ile-de-France on 2 December. It concerns a man of between 50-60 years old, who had returnnd from a trip to Nigeria.

At the moment of testing, he was not showing any symptoms. Two other people living with him were also tested, with results pending. None of the three was vaccinated.

Speaking Wednesday, scientific council chief Jean-Francois Delfraissy said that while there was no miracle solution to beat Covid, there were "a series of small steps that can be taken".

Like the rest of Europe, France has been experiencing a surge in infections for several weeks, which is beginning to impact hospitals.

In response, the government is relying on vaccinations and, more specifically, booster shots which have been opened up to the entire vaccinated adult population.

Delfraissy added that the booster campaign is essential to prevent the current wave from overloading hospitals, pointing out that vaccines become less effective with each passing month.

However, he expressed scepticism about the merits of compulsory vaccination, that has been raised by the incoming German government.

Better compliance with prevention measures

Meanwhile, Delfraissy said it was crucial to improve compliance with preventive measures - such as wearing a mask - citing projections published earlier this week by the Pasteur Institute.

According to the institute, respecting these measures at present would be enough to considerably reduce the peak in hospital admissions forecast for the beginning of 2022.

Regarding the uncertainties linked to the new Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, Delfraissy pointed out that its danger and contagiousness are still unknown.

The Omicron variant, which has led several countries to close their borders, has an unusually high number of mutations, which theoretically raises concerns about greater resistance to vaccines.

It is likely that existing vaccines will be less effective against Omicron, Delfraissy admitted, but "we have no idea what the level will be."

Assuming that Omicron overtakes the Delta variant, it "will take some time to settle in," Delfraissy said, estimating that it would take several weeks.

Mandatory vaccinations?

Meanwhile, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that EU nations should "open a debate" around making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory because "too many people still refuse to get shots voluntarily."

The EU-wide vaccination rate stands at 66%, and unexpectedly high case surges in much of the 27-nation bloc has led many member countries to renew mask and testing requirements, and to take other steps to curb infections. France's vaccination rate is currently 75%, according to the French government's anti-covid application "tous anti-Covid."

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