Estimating the burden of SARS-CoV-2 in France

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  10 Jul 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6500, pp. 208-211
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc3517

This article has a correction. Please see:

COVID-19 pandemic in France

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) exacted a heavy toll in France during March and April 2020. Quarantine measures were effective in reducing transmission by 84%, and some relaxation of social isolation was expected in May. Salje et al. fit transmission models for the epidemic in France to hospital admissions. The authors forecast that 2.9 million people will have been infected by 11 May, representing 4.4% of the population—a value inadequate for herd immunity. Daily critical care hospitalizations should reduce from several hundreds to tens of cases, but control will remain a delicate balancing act. Any relaxation of lockdown in France will have to be carefully controlled and monitored to avoid undermining more optimistic forecasts.

Science, this issue p. 208


France has been heavily affected by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic and went into lockdown on 17 March 2020. Using models applied to hospital and death data, we estimate the impact of the lockdown and current population immunity. We find that 2.9% of infected individuals are hospitalized and 0.5% of those infected die (95% credible interval: 0.3 to 0.9%), ranging from 0.001% in those under 20 years of age to 8.3% in those 80 years of age or older. Across all ages, men are more likely to be hospitalized, enter intensive care, and die than women. The lockdown reduced the reproductive number from 2.90 to 0.67 (77% reduction). By 11 May 2020, when interventions are scheduled to be eased, we project that 3.5 million people (range: 2.1 million to 6.0 million), or 5.3% of the population (range: 3.3 to 9.3%), will have been infected. Population immunity appears to be insufficient to avoid a second wave if all control measures are released at the end of the lockdown.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science