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We have been observing it for several weeks somehow over the screenings : variants of the coronavirus responsible for covid-19 are spreading in France, forming an epidemic within the epidemic.

In Brittany, the so-called “British” variant became the majority in February. Its presence was strongly suspected in 56% of the 1,900 Breton positive tests studied between February 9 and 15, Public Health France told us. But on that date, only two departments actually crossed this 50% threshold: Ille-et-Vilaine and Morbihan.

Since that date, this departmental distribution was updated in the weekly points of Public Health France. When from the previous one, we discovered that on February 24, the 50% share of the British variant had also been crossed in the Côtes-d’Armor, as in about thirty other departments in France.

The British variant continues to grow

This Tuesday, the national health agency released a new mapping of these suspected variants, based on screening tests carried out between February 20 and 26. “In addition to the daily COVID-19 situation update, an analysis of the results of screening tests is now available and updated every day,” indicates Public Health France. The posting of more detailed data relating to these screenings is announced for the next few days.

A first map concerns the share of the British variant in the screenings carried out over this period of one week. We discover that Finistère also exceeds the threshold of 50%, like the other Breton departments. The regions of Île-de-France, Hauts-de-France or Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur also have a large number of departments where this variant weighs more than half.

What do these “suspicions” correspond to? They come from the performance of RT-PCR screening tests. For several weeks, the systematic screening of positive tests has aimed to allow better monitoring of known variants, real stake in the current evolution of the epidemic. This method complements the “flash” surveys, which relate to a random selection of positive tests and which aim to detect possible new variants. These proportions are considered to be suspicions because, depending on the screening methods, the results may vary.

This is the advantage of regular monitoring: as with many indicators, beyond photography, it is the trend that sheds light on the situation. The health agency compares, in particular, the territorial progression of the variants with the evolution of the incidence over one week. “There seems to be a link between the geographical distribution of the variant and the relative evolution of the incidence, at the departmental level”, underlined the agency in his latest report.

Less clear evolution for the other two variants

At this point, in addition to the British variant, the South African and Brazilian variants complete the list of “variants of interest” very followed at present. This name refers to their potentially significant effect, “in terms of transmissibility, virulence or potential immune escape”, which “justifies the establishment of surveillance and specific management measures at the national level, with the objective of to contain their progress, ”recalls the health agency. Santé publique France therefore also offers an assessment of the cumulative share of these two other variants which are particularly monitored.

Over the same period from February 20 to 26, the weight of these variants was significant, compared to other territories, in Finistère and Côtes-d’Armor. However, these findings must be made with hindsight, in particular because the number of positive cases is lower in these territories than in other regions. The proportion can therefore vary more strongly. Detection of “clusters” can also influence the data. Here again, the trend over several days will be to follow.

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