On June 8, the Director-General of the World Health Organization stated that although the COVID-19 epidemic situation is improving in Europe, globally it is worsening, and we must avoid lapsing into complacency. The situation is a complex one. The Institut Pasteur provides a brief summary of the latest developments. What are the current key issues, what monitoring indicators are being used, how can we keep up to date with the latest news, and how can we learn to live with the outbreak? Find out more with our overview.
- Updated on July 6, 2020 -
What do we know about the COVID-19 outbreak as of today?
- In France, coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (responsible for Covid-19 disease) is still in circulation, albeit at a low level. There are around 500 to 1,000 infections and 4 to 5 new clusters (isolated outbreaks) each day.
- Worldwide, circulation of the virus has also fallen considerably in countries that controlled their first wave, but this is mainly because stringent measures were taken to control the virus and these are still in place. In the meantime the outbreak has spread to Central America, South America, Central Asia and South Asia.
- Worldwide, there have never been so many cases diagnosed (as of July 6, 2020) according to the World Health Organization (WHO):
- the epidemic is very active on the whole American continent, in the Middle East, and in Central and South Asia;
- the epidemic is on the rise in the countries where the flu usually circulates at this time of the year: South Africa, Madagascar, Australia;
- the circulation of the virus has decreased considerably in the countries having controlled their first wave, but above all because the control measures on the virus have been very strong everywhere and are still maintained; however, some European countries (Germany, Italy, Spain) see clusters leading to partial lockdowns, showing that the virus is indeed present.
- It is expected that circulation of the virus will slow over the summer in the northern hemisphere because the risk of transmission is lower outdoors and the virus may be sensitive to temperature (although there is no scientific certainty about this theory).
The SARS-CoV-2 virus will not disappear, because:
- While the virus may take a summer break in the northern hemisphere, during this time it will travel to the southern hemisphere, as temperatures fall there with the arrival of winter – just like other seasonal respiratory tract viruses.
- And there will continue to be winters in France, so as long as the virus is circulating somewhere in the world, it may come back.
- It is very unlikely that a concerted effort by ALL countries will make the virus disappear SIMULTANEOUSLY everywhere:
- the comparison with the 2003 SARS (read the disease fact sheet in French) outbreak (caused by another coronavirus) is not valid because the COVID-19 pandemic is on an entirely different scale from the SARS outbreak: tens of millions of COVID-19 infections compared with 8,000 for SARS;
- the virus will continue to circulate among minimally symptomatic individuals;
- not to mention the possibility of its reintroduction from animals, even if that risk is low...
- With the first wave on the wane, approximately 5% of the population are immunized in France, meaning that we are far from a situation of herd immunity (50% to 70% of adults immunized, according to hypotheses) and French people are not protected.
Why do we need to remain cautious?
So we need to remain extremely cautious and continue to apply preventive hygiene and distancing measures, wear masks in public and make sure we are tested if we have symptoms – this is the price we have to pay for our newfound partial "freedom." Complying with these measures will be all the more necessary in autumn if there has been a summer "break." Previous examples of influenza pandemics, including the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic in 2009, have shown us that in the absence of control measures, outbreaks can have several waves.
The challenge is to find a level of measures that keeps circulation of the virus under control while allowing the resumption of social and economic life that is so vital for our well-being.
This study is part of the priority scientific area Emerging infectious diseases of the Institut Pasteur's strategic plan for 2019-2023.