Ever since the end of the French lockdown in May 2020, French public health authorities have been tracking new Covid-19 clusters. A cluster is determined when, within a community, at least three confirmed or probable infections are registered within a 7-day period. The latest weekly report of the French public health agency, Santé Publique France, on this epidemiological monitoring highlights the key role played by workplaces in a context where the disease is affecting a growing number of young adults and where the spread of the virus is increasing at a worrying rate.
Of the 1583 clusters registered between 9 May and 7 September 2020, the largest proportion (29%) is made up of private or public enterprises not belonging to the healthcare sector. Yet there are other work environments where contamination may concern not just staff, but also users, residents or patients. These include healthcare institutions (15% of clusters), homeless shelters (6%), sheltered workshops (3%), schools and universities (4%), crèches (2%) and prisons (1%). Clusters not directly related to work environments include many public or private events such as festivals, parties, sports or religious events (15%) and family gatherings (11%). The data does not include old people's homes or households.
Looking at all social and medico-social establishments where residents cohabit with staff, more than 60,000 Covid-19 cases were registered between 1 March and 6 September 2020, of which 21,772 cases concerned members of staff.
This data leads to the conclusion that specific occupational health aspects are being neglected in the hygiene-based policy for fighting the pandemic. The inadequacy of workplace prevention is a key factor in the risk of a “second wave”. In the majority of cases, employers have introduced hygiene-related measures but have not implemented sufficient changes with regard to work organisation, work intensity or the use of precarious labour.