Covid season is here: how will it compare to last year?

The number of new Covid cases has risen sharply in Monaco, with the incident rate almost doubling in a week, signalling the onset of Covid season. To see what Covid season this winter will look like, we go back to 2021.

November always marks the onset of flu season, so it is not surprising that it also now marks the onset of Covid season.

Two and a half years into the Covid-19 epidemic, and following a widespread vaccination campaign, enough time has passed for us to track its performance and potentially predict its progress.

The latest figures from the Monaco government show that, in the week ending Sunday 27th November, Monaco had registered 157 new cases of Covid-19 compared to 90 the previous week, and 64 in the first week of November.

The incident rate, identifying the level of virus circulation throughout the Principality, now sits at 401, up significantly from 240 just seven days earlier, and 161 at the start of the month.

This rise in circulation is identical to what we witnessed with Covid last year.

In the week ending 28th November 2021, the incidence rate also more than doubled – from 129 to 450. This was essentially the tipping point last year, when circulation continued to climb at a rapid rate, jumping around 300 points every week to hit its peak of 2,157 in the third week of January. The incidence rate then began a slow descent as flu season loosened its grip on the Principality.

The same situation is likely to happen this year. But the difference is demand for Covid testing is falling.

During its 2021/22 winter peak, upwards of 10,000 people were being tested each week in Monaco. Even at the onset in November 2021, 5,450 people had a PCR or antigen test. Last week in Monaco, there were 1,463 screenings conducted, a quarter of the amount seen at the same time last year. Yet screening is still considered the best way to tackle the virus.

The drop in testing may have something to do with the fact vaccinations and infections have potentially reduced the severity of Covid, while death rates in Monaco have also dropped considerably, altering people’s perception of the virus.

 The Princess Grace Hospital Centre in Monaco is currently caring for 10 Covid patients, five of whom are residents. No one is in ICU.

Health authorities are still encouraging people to receive a Covid booster vaccine, which targets the dominant Omicron BA.4-5 variants, from Pfizer and BioNTech, particularly vulnerable members of the community.