Reconfinement in the Alpes-Maritimes and Dunkirk, “fast and strong measurements“to come. The government is tightening the screws today in the face of the coronavirus epidemic. But should these decisions have been taken earlier?
The publication of a note from the Scientific Council submitted to the government on January 29 but made public on February 24, nearly a month later, questions.

One month of confinement in February

What the group of experts then advocated was “strict containment over a period of four weeks from the beginning of February“, during school holidays.

Such a measure would have made it possible, according to the models of the Scientific Council, to “to bring the circulation of the virus back to around 5,000 daily contaminations “, of “slow down penetration“British and South African variants and”save time at a critical moment“. A time during which screening tests for variants could have been developed and vaccination could have advanced, or even”end in nursing homes “.

Without strong measures, high epidemic peaks

The specialists even compared two scenarios, with two different dates of entry into confinement, February 1 or 8, and made the following remark: “If containment is delayed by a week, it will take another week to reach the target of 5,000 cases. “

Finally, what the experts also predicted is a “emergence of virus variants” who “will make controlling the epidemic in France even more difficult in the coming months.

If we do not succeed in stemming the progression of the virus with strong measures, we risk being confronted with epidemic peaks similar to those observed in March-April and November 2020 or even higher.“they again warned.

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“We can give ourselves a chance to avoid it”

Yet this is not the strategy the government has chosen to adopt. And on the very day that this note was issued, the Prime Minister Jean Castex took the floor. He recognized that the health situation was “worrying” and “the progression of variants (posed) a high risk of accelerating the epidemic“.

But he continued: even if “the question of confinement arises legitimately (…) this evening we consider in the light of the figures of the last days that we can still give ourselves a chance to avoid it.“We understand that the publication of such a note simultaneously with the decision of the government could have done task.

A question of transparency

Is this a problematic situation? In itself, the Scientific Council has only an advisory role. Its mission is to inform government decisions but it has no decisional weight. In other words, the government listens to it, but is not bound to implement its recommendations.

But what raises more questions is the lack of transparency around this note of January 29 and the delay with which it was made public.

Three unpublished reports in January

As much as another opinion of the Scientific Council dated February 12, online today but which had not been published on the ministry’s website as of February 19 *, mentioned the note of January 29, indicating that it had not been published. Just like two other notes, dated January 20 and 24, entitled respectively “Warning note for the highest state authorities“and”Limit a third wave due to the rapid appearance of variants“.

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What legislation around publications?

Indeed, at the beginning of 2021 more than a month passed without the reports of the Scientific Council provided to the government being made public, warned on Twitter the doctor in biology and science popularizer Tania Louis from February 13.
But is it at least legal not to publish the communications of the Scientific Council? To answer this question, we must differentiate between rating and opinion. The opinions must be communicated simultaneously to the Prime Minister, the President of the National Assembly and the President of the Senate and be made public “without delay”, according to the public health code, Tania Louis recalled. Notes, on the other hand, can be published in staggered fashion, at the discretion of the government.

If the January 29 document released one month late is a note, the February 12 document is a notice. Legally, it should therefore have been made public the same day, while more than a week elapsed between its writing and its posting on the website of the Ministry of Health.

* Source: