Endgame for the coronavirus? “We still have a problem with the Covid-19, we are devoting a lot of work to this file, but the pandemic is over”, judged US President Joe Biden on Sunday, September 18, during an iinterview at the American television channel CBS*. A statement on the health situation in his country which caused a lot of reaction and which surprised his own health advisers, according to Politico*. So, thee leader democrat hasIs he right to believe that the Covid-19 pandemic is just a bad thing? memory ?
“The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over,” President Biden tells 60 Minutes in an interview in Detroit. https://t.co/7SixTE3OMT pic.twitter.com/s5fyjRpYuX
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) September 19, 2022
The latest figures available on the coronavirus seem, at first glance, to belie the optimism displayed by the President Biden. And for good reason, nearly two million contaminations and more than 12,000 deaths have been recorded in the last 28 days in the United States, according to Johns-Hopkins University. In Franceon the same period, more than 500,000 people were infected and more than 1,000 people were deceased. The eighth wave of the pandemic even seems to be looming. “The mortality figures are still very high in France (…) with 30,000 deaths since the start of 2022, it’s considerable”, deplore Professor Anthony Flahaultepidemiologist and director of the Geneva Institute for Global Health (Swiss).
“The Covid pandemic will only be truly resolved when this mortality is under control.”Antoine Flahault, epidemiologist
“Statements like those of [Joe Biden] are symbolic, we have had many since the start of the pandemic, but they are not very happy in their aging”adds Mircea Sofonea, epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier. In last February, on the occasion of the end of the fifth wave of Covid-19, Olivier Véran already announced that the “worse was behind us”. “The politicians wish to give hope to the population to avoid what the Americans call “pandemic fatigue”, a weariness leading to a rejection of preventive measures or barrier gestures”, analyzes the epidemiologist.
According to these specialists, it is therefore still premature to say that the pandemic is over. A finding highlighted bysomewhere else the Maison Blanche herself during a declaration of Dr Ashish Jha*, coordinator for the president of the management of Covid-19, on September 6, just two weeks before Joe’s interview Biden.
Despite everything, several indicators suggest a possible long-term epidemic exit scenario. “We can say that the acute phase of the pandemic is over”, says Sylvie Briand, director of the epidemic and pandemic risk department at the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus is also under pressure from a high population immunity achieved “thanks to vaccination and naturally by infections and reinfections”, according to Sylvie Briand.
“Compared to previous years, we have the tools and the treatments to deal with the epidemic.”Sylvie Briand, Director of the Epidemic and Pandemic Risk Department at WHO
An encouraging and shared report up to the head of the World Health Organization. “Last week, the number of weekly deaths from Covid-19 fell to the lowest since March 2020. We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic.” declared the director general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during a press briefing on September 14*.
Characteristics of the currently dominant virus, the Omicron variant, also point to greater pandemic predictability. Omicron is “so transmissible that it does not let other variants supplant it”, reveals Sylvie Briand. “One has the impression that the rate of evolution [vers d’autres variants] decrease”, confirms Bruno Lina, virologist at the Croix-Rousse hospital in Lyon. Previously, “every four months, a new variant would emerge”, remembers the virologist. Now, the current subvariants are all “descendants of Omicron”appeared in November 2021.
A sign, “maybe”that a “seesaw” between a phase “pandemic” and “a seasonal circulation of the virus” is in progress, deduces Bruno Lina. Instead of experiencing an epidemic peak “every four months”, “In the future, the virus would only have an epidemic once during the winter. Potentially, the Covid could settle down like the other respiratory viruses”, hypothesizes the virologist. “If things stay that way with a flu-like, seasonal course, ‘critical Covid-19’, which has the potential to overwhelm medical services, would be behind us,” Mircea Sofonea abounds.
However, epidemiologists want to be cautious in their forecasts. “It is only at the end of the epidemic wave in the northern hemisphere this winter, if new variants do not appear, that we will know whether or not we are in a stabilization phase of the virus”, warns Bruno Lin / A. The occurrence of a scenario “pessimistic” involving a more variant “virulent” cannot be ruled out, confirms Sylvie Briand. But it seems “much less possible these days”. And to conclude: “We prepare for the worst, hoping for the best.”
* Links marked with an asterisk refer to content in English.