France struggled to control the surge of new cases during the first wave of Covid-19, resulting in a high rate of fatalities from cases. There was no meaningful testing capacity and it was offered only for serious cases. The country was placed under one of the harshest lockdowns in Europe in an attempt to flatten the curve. Similar to other countries in Europe, France’s Covid-19 daily confirmed cases started to decline in May and the country seemed to have regained control of the situation. France was also able to ramp up the testing capacity and it was available for a wider population in the community. However, the daily confirmed cases have started increasing again, giving rise to the concern that France is experiencing a second wave of Covid-19. This increase in cases cannot be fully explained by increase in testing capacity, as the percentage of cases tested positive continues to rise steadily.
France has become one of the most heavily affected countries in Western Europe, and is expected to reach 700,000 total confirmed cases in the next two weeks. GlobalData does not believe that the country will soon have a significant decrease in new cases, due to the fact that the country reopened the economy when the infections were not fully under control. However, hospitalisation and mortality are lower than in the first wave as more mild and asymptomatic cases are being diagnosed. The age groups of the positive cases are also much lower, which suggests that the outcome will be more favourable than in the first wave. Healthcare providers are also better prepared in terms of resource availability and allocations.
The spike in cases, which began in August, seems to have coincided with the summer holiday and tourist season. On average, 12,000 daily new cases were reported in the last week of September, which is much higher than the 700 daily new cases in July, as shown in Figure 1 below. However, this surge cannot be compared to the country’s peak cases in March, as only serious and hospitalised cases were tested at that time. France was conducting an average of 150,000 tests per day in the last week of September, which is much higher than in previous months. However, the test positivity rate, which was around 1.5% in June and July, has steadily increased to approximately 9% in the last week of September. This suggests that the recent increase in cases cannot be fully explained by increased testing in recent days. The hospitalisation of serious cases and mortality has also gradually increased, which suggests an increasing rate of Covid-19 transmission in the community.
Covid-19 is extremely contagious, and the number of cases and deaths could rapidly spiral out of control if the country fails in its effort to control the spread of the virus in the vulnerable population. France is currently struggling to provide testing facilities for its population as the demand is very high. There is a serious backlog in testing capacity that makes it difficult to identify outbreak clusters and set up effective contact tracing. To avoid uncontrolled rise in cases, an effective test-and-trace system needs to be in place that prevents localised outbreaks from spreading further.