Under The Radar? French Covid-19 surveillance programme failed with many infected going undetected

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January 01, 2021 5:00 AM

Researchers at the Pierre Louis Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health modelled transmission between mid-May (soon after the first lockdown was lifted) and late June and found that some 90,000 cases escaped the radar even as infections in the country were reported as declining.

The researchers believe “encouraging same-day healthcare-seeking by suspect cases is critical”. But, if the problem is indeed cultural, it will be an uphill task.

France is considering a third lockdown as Covid-19 cases have begun to rise. The country has seen close to 65,000 deaths from the disease, out of nearly 2.6 million cases reported. However, a recently published study in the journal Nature contends that, in the weeks following the lifting of the country’s first lockdown, nine out of ten residents who contracted the disease went undetected. This, without doubt, indicates the country’s surveillance programme failed.

Researchers at the Pierre Louis Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health modelled transmission between mid-May (soon after the first lockdown was lifted) and late June and found that some 90,000 cases escaped the radar even as infections in the country were reported as declining.

This, of course, shows that the country’s surveillance programme didn’t work and perhaps many symptomatics didn’t seek testing and treatment. Indeed, per surveillance data, only 31% of individuals with Covid-19 symptoms sought medical advice during the study period.

Some commentators have observed that the Macron administration needs to appeler un chat un chat (call a cat a cat, or say it as it is) and implement aggressive testing of suspected infections.

A good way to go about estimating actual Covid-19 spread and zeroing down on high-spread geographies is to have periodic sero-surveys. The researchers believe “encouraging same-day healthcare-seeking by suspect cases is critical”. But, if the problem is indeed cultural, it will be an uphill task.

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