August 1, 2021

“We said to ourselves that there was a risk”

By Chloé Hecketsweiler

Posted today at 5:50 am, updated at 6:09 am

This Friday, March 20, 2020, the caregivers of the infectious and tropical diseases department of the Bichat hospital remember it as if it were yesterday. In front of the brick building of the “SMIT” (the Infectious and Tropical Diseases Service), all had posed for Paris Match, masked, in blue pajamas and white blouse, with signs “Please stay home for us.” At this point, the tide continues to rise. More than 130 beds are already occupied on the two floors by patients on the verge of asphyxiation. And the phone keeps ringing: “Do you have a place? “ Souvenir of war, this photo pinned on the walls, recalls this fight without weapons – or so little – in the face of this disease called Covid-19.

Since the start of the epidemic, nearly 1,500 patients have been treated at SMIT and vaccination has not yet made it possible to turn the page on the epidemic. This June 30, it is low water: less than ten patients occupy the Covid-19 unit, in the west wing on the second floor.

Photo of the team from the infectious and tropical diseases department at Bichat hospital in Paris, during the first wave of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Crushed by fatigue under his pale yellow sheet, Boubacar counts the days that have passed since his arrival: “Thirteen, today, loose this 65-year-old retiree, who taught in a Koranic school and practices geomancy, a divinatory art. It’s long. “ Eyes half-closed, dazzled by the light filtering under the half-lowered blinds, he explains that he tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 on his arrival. “But I don’t think I have the Covid. I don’t feel any pain here ”, he specifies, pointing to his lungs.

“We don’t have enough perspective”

Vaccination for those over 60 was opened on April 16, but it did “Never asked”. “You have to say: I never wanted to, tackles his wife, laughing. I got vaccinated and I offered to come, but he said: “No, no, I’m waiting” », she says, specifying that she already caught the Covid-19 during the first wave, in March 2020.

“AstraZeneca, I don’t like, he justifies himself.

– You don’t like, but you don’t know! “, replied Siré, startled by the rumor that vaccinated people would become “Magnetic”. “To those who talk to me about it, I say to them: ‘But are you delusional or what ?!’ “

In the next room, a 78-year-old man with a dark face and gray beard has yet to regain his senses after the long journey that brought him here. Repatriated the day before from Gambia, he arrived with the simple luggage of a suitcase filled with medicines for various pathologies. The vaccine didn’t want it either. “We told him about it, but he’s stubborn”, sighs Aminata (the name has been changed) her 24-year-old daughter, wearing a black abaya and hijab. A nursing student, however, she is not convinced of the value of vaccination for herself. “Maybe later, but as it is not obligatory I wait. We don’t have enough perspective ”, explains the young woman frankly, while specifying that she is careful not to share her doubts with the people she vaccinates in a center in Seine-Sainte-Denis.

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