The study undertaken by MSF and the Institut Pasteur found that shared accommodation and crowded conditions increased the risk of eposure to the virus | Photo: Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF
The study undertaken by MSF and the Institut Pasteur found that shared accommodation and crowded conditions increased the risk of eposure to the virus | Photo: Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF

A new study undertaken in MSF emergency centers between June and July 2020 showed that there appears to be a higher coronavirus infection rate among the poorest in Paris, including migrants and those living in precarious economic and social situations.

The new study carried out by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) found that there is a higher prevalence of coronavirus infection rates among the most vulnerable in society, including migrants. The rates ranged between 18-94% positive results, said the charity, depending on the center of testing.

The study was carried out by the epidemiological research institute of medical charity MSF – Epicentre, along with the Pasteur Institute (L’Institut Pasteur); it was based on tests carried out between June and July 2020.

"The results confirm that the circulation of the virus is more active in situations where people are meeting lots of different people, where people have to share rooms, showers, kitchens with several other people," said Thomas Roederer, an epidemiologist with Epicentre who was responsible for leading the study.

High rates of exposure to the virus

Epicentre researchers tested 818 people split over two MSF food distribution sites, two workers hostels, and ten emergency accommodation centers in Paris, and the surrounding area -- the Val d’Oise and Seine-Saint-Denis.

The study found that the prevalence of those who had been exposed to the virus, and had antibodies from it in their blood was "very high." In the emergency accommodation centers, between 23 and 62% of people had been exposed to the virus.

At the food distribution centers, stated the MSF press release, between 18 and 35% of people had been exposed to the virus and in the workers hostels the incidence of the presence of antibodies in the blood was very high, between 82 and 94%.

Shared accommodation increases the risks

In fact, the study found that one in two of the 543 people living in shared accommodation, who took part in the research, had tested positive for the presence of SARS-COV-2.

A French police officer controls bystanders in front of an almost empty Gare de l'Est as a lockdown imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) contagion started at midday in all the country, in Paris, France, March 17, 2020 | Photo: REUTERS
A French police officer controls bystanders in front of an almost empty Gare de l'Est as a lockdown imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) contagion started at midday in all the country, in Paris, France, March 17, 2020 | Photo: REUTERS

As a comparison, the French Public Health authority (Santé Publique France) recently carried out a similar study across the general population in the Ile-de-France area (also just around Paris) which found that one in ten of the general population had been exposed to the virus.

That study, said the MSF press release, tested mostly male subjects (80%), mostly young (49% were under 35) and in 79% of cases, they had suffered no adverse health problems from being in contact with the virus.

Most of those who were surveyed, said MSF France, said that they had tried to respect the measures designed to maintain distance and hygiene in order to prevent the spread of the virus. However, maintaining distance in shared spaces is difficult, particularly if you are forced to share a room, or a kitchen or bathroom with several other people. This is what increased their risk, found the study.

Transmission prevention

Corinne Torre, MSF France’s Chief of Mission, cautioned that it was important that these emergency accommodation centers were not allowed to become places of increased transmission, especially as winter approached and more and more people might be transferred to similar centers, in order to protect them from the cold.

Torre said that placing people in dormitories should be avoided when it was possible to provide people with hotel rooms and individual spaces which could be better geared up to the prevention measures required.

MSF said they had advised the authorities that they should provide more information for residents of emergency accommodation and workers hostels and anyone living in co-housing. They said the authorities should also make sure that the highest-risk groups of developing severe forms of the virus were well-informed about their access to universal health care and methods of prevention and protection. Anyone who was deemed particularly at risk should be offered alternative, less-crowded accommodation, they said.

Thomas Roederer said that the study confirmed that more epidemiological studies should be carried out to prioritize prevention strategies for the most at-risk populations.

 

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