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Covid-19 variant Omicron XBB becomes most prevalent in France

It has contributed to Covid cases rising for two weeks in a row, but the national infection rate remains low

Uptake of boost vaccines for Covid-19 remains low Pic: Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock

France’s public health body has highlighted the rise of a Covid-19 variant that is now the most prevalent in the country.

The variant - Omicron XBB - has contributed to Covid-19 cases rising two weeks in a row, although the actual number of infections remains low across the country.

Cases are concentrated largely in a few departments, with the national incidence rate remaining low.

A reminder to protect those who are most vulnerable against the disease has been issued, recommending people get booster vaccines.

Cases concentrated in northern France

The current departments with the highest number of Covid-19 cases are:

  • Bas-Rhin (161.17 cases per 100,000 inhabitants)
  • Haut-Rhin (124.65 cases per 100,000 inhabitants)
  • Somme (104.89 cases per 100,000 inhabitants)
  • Nord (103.04 cases per 100,000 inhabitants)
  • Moselle (101.780 cases per 100,000 inhabitants)

Cases are therefore concentrated in the north and north-east of the country, with cases across the rest of France much lower.

The Atlantic and central-southern departments generally have the lowest infection rates, with some having less than 30 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The national incidence rate – which was usually the key criteria for public health decisions during the height of the pandemic – was 70 new positive cases per 100,000 people between March 13 and March 19.

This is 26% higher than the preceding week, but twelve times lower than the figure for the same period in the previous year, when Covid-19 was already seen as a much-reduced threat than in 2020 and 2021.  

Read more: Autumn Covid booster recommended only for ‘at risk’ groups in France

Reinforce protection of the most vulnerable

The increase in cases comes in the context of changes to the reimbursement rate for Covid-19 tests and rules for Covid-19 infections, respectively lowering the number of people testing and isolating when positive, which can contribute to the virus’ spread.

The health body reaffirmed its calls for the most vulnerable to infection to protect themselves, with the uptake of booster vaccinations - that tackle Omicron and its variants - remaining very low.

As of March 20, only 23.2% of 60-79-year-olds and 25.9% of those aged 80 and over had received the booster vaccine, which is optional. 

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