We'll have to "living with the virus over the long term". This is what Jean Castex said last November about the Covid-19 epidemic. Since March 2020, France has therefore alternated between confinement and curfew in order to manage the different waves of the pandemic and to limit the circulation of Sars-CoV-2.
But for now, the government wants to avoid a third lockdown at all costs: "It must be decreed as late as possible, as a last resort", the Prime Minister said at a press conference on February 4.
A mitigation strategy that is not unanimous: other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and Vietnam have adopted a very different method: "zero Covid". The idea? Implement strict measures in areas where the virus is present, even in a limited way, to stop its circulation. And this, at the slightest alert.
"Zero Covid": what is it?
The "zero Covid" strategy more specifically aims to anticipate the evolution of the epidemic, rather than learning how to "living with the virus". No question of letting Sars-CoV-2 circulate: restrictions are put in place quickly and upstream. In Auckland (New Zealand), for example, a three-day lockdown was introduced after the discovery of three cases of Covid-19. This strategy also includes border controls, stricter tracing or even supervised isolation of patients.
The "zero Covid" seems to have proved its worth in the countries which have experienced it: in Australia, for example, the last death dates from December 28, while in Taiwan, no case of Covid-19 has been identified between April 12 and December 22. A finding that appeals to certain European countries.
“Zero Covid” strategy: what are “green zones”?
A group of French doctors, economists and political scientists is also positioning themselves in favor of the application of "zero Covid", in France, in a column published in The world. "We call on politicians and citizens to define a European elimination strategy based on three pillars: vaccination, the establishment of green zones, and a strengthening of screening and tracing methods, including through the use of new technologies ", they write.
The "green zones", experienced in countries where "zero Covid" has been adopted, are sectors where the rate of transmission of the virus is almost zero. They must therefore be preserved: to enter them, screening tests and quarantine are necessary. In these areas, therefore, life can "gradually return to normal: schools, restaurants, cultural venues and other businesses can reopen completely", explain the authors of the forum.
At the same time, the areas where the virus is circulating more actively, in other words the "red zones", are subject to strict restrictions.
Covid-19: can this strategy be transposed in Europe and France?
Could this "zero Covid" strategy and the restrictions it entails be implemented in Europe and more specifically in France?
While the authors of the forum are in favor of adopting these measures to eliminate the coronavirus, other experts believe that this method would be difficult to transpose in Europe, for various reasons: "The much greater mobility in Europe, the much higher population density of cities, the dependence of the European economy on cross-border travel and the fact that Europe is a major travel destination", explains for example to AFP Prof. Archie Clements, epidemiologist at Curtin University in Perth (Australia).
Some experts also mention the peculiarities of most of the countries that have successfully adopted "zero Covid", namely insularity and the absence of land borders, which limit travel and therefore the circulation of the virus. Another obstacle to the application of this method: tracing, much stricter and intrusive in countries that have adopted "zero Covid", which would be difficult to transpose in Europe. Many specialists are also worried about the economic and psychological consequences of this strategy, which would require in particular re-containment. In addition, Europe would have to come to an agreement on the issue of borders for the "zero Covid" to be effective.
Despite these obstacles, some experts such as Professor Antoine Flahault, professor of public health at the University of Geneva (Switzerland) and director of the Institute for Global Health, remain in favor of this strategy. According to him, there is a real choice to be made: "Last summer, we had in fact reached a situation close to 'zero Covid' in May – June, after a very strict confinement of two months. This allowed us to spend a relatively serene summer but we did not successful or not wanted to contain the resumption of circulation of the virus. If France now decides to strictly reconfine and for a few weeks, while it is not yet in a period of acute crisis, it will again have the possibility of s 'commit to a sustainable Zero Covid strategy ", he explains to AEF info.
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