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Underdetection of COVID-19 cases in France in the exit phase following lockdown (preprint)
medrxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.08.10.20171744
ABSTRACT
A novel testing policy was implemented in May in France to systematically screen potential COVID-19 infections and suppress local outbreaks while lifting lockdown restrictions. 20,736 virologically-confirmed cases were reported in mainland France from May 13, 2020 (week 20, end of lockdown) to June 28 (week 26). Accounting for missing data and the delay from symptom onset to confirmation test, this corresponds to 7,258 [95% CI 7,160-7,336] cases with symptom onset during this period, a likely underestimation of the real number. Using age-stratified transmission models parameterized to behavioral data and calibrated to regional hospital admissions, we estimated that 69,115 [58,072-77,449] COVID-19 symptomatic cases occurred, suggesting that 9 out of 10 cases with symptoms were not ascertained. Median detection rate increased from 7% [6-9]% to 31% [28-35]% over time, with regional estimates varying from 11% (Grand Est) to 78% (Normandy) by the end of June. Healthcare-seeking behavior in COVID-19 suspect cases remained low (31%) throughout the period. Model projections for the incidence of symptomatic cases (4.5 [3.9-5.0] per 100,000) were compatible with estimates integrating participatory and virological surveillance data, assuming all suspect cases consulted. Encouraging healthcare-seeking behavior and awareness in suspect cases is critical to improve detection. Substantially more aggressive and efficient testing with easier access is required to act as a pandemic-fighting tool. These elements should be considered in light of the currently observed resurgence of cases in France and other European countries.

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