Official suggests reinstating use of face masks given higher virus infectiousness

France is facing a new wave of COVID-19 infections, driven by new variants of the disease, with residents again being urged to wear masks in crowded areas.

Other European countries are also seeing an increase in cases, due to new Omicron subvariants-BA.4 and BA.5, reported Reuters.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, or ECDC, has said these variants are likely to become dominant in the region.

The French government’s top scientific adviser, Jean-Francois Delfraissy, said on Thursday that the peak in cases will likely come at the end of the month.

“Then the BA.5 variant will reappear, if it is not overtaken by another variant… in autumn,” Delfraissy told RTL radio.

Infections in France have been rising steadily, with more than 147,000 cases reported on Tuesday alone, which is 54 percent higher than the number a week earlier. Hospitalizations were up by 8 percent during the same period. On Thursday, the latest figures were 124,724 novel coronavirus infections, against 77,967 a week ago.

Last week, French vaccination chief Alain Fischer confirmed France was witnessing a new COVID-19 wave, and said he favored reinstating mandatory use of face masks on public transport.

He noted there is traditionally a two-week delay between cases and hospitalization trends and then a similar delay regarding COVID-19 deaths.

“The question is: ‘what intensity does this wave have?'” Fischer told France 2 television.

The ECDC said the variants “do not appear to carry a higher risk of severe disease than other forms of Omicron but, as they are somewhat more infectious than the latter, it could lead to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths”.

Sandra Gallina, director-general of health and food safety at the European Commission, told Euronews the current situation is “under control” but that “we need to start learning to live with COVID.”

Tomislav Sokol, a member of the European Parliament, told Euronews health systems are not under as much pressure as they have been.

“We have to take into account all of the factors and all of the objectives, so also the fact that we need to maintain the economy; we need to maintain the value chains, supply of critical goods and materials,” he said.

Sky News reported that the number of people in hospitals in England who tested positive for the virus had surged by more than a third in a week, to more than 7,800, fueled by the newer variants, which now make up more than half of all fresh COVID-19 cases.

It said this is the highest total for nearly two months but remains below the peak of 16,600 patients during the Omicron BA.2 wave of infections earlier in the year.

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