The current spike in Covid cases was expected by health officials and renewed mask-wearing advice should have been issued before this week, according to a virologist.
A spike in cases and hospital numbers this week has prompted people to be urged to start wearing masks again.
dr HSE Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry said there had been a sharp rise in cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks, possibly due to emerging variants of the virus.
dr Gerald Barry, a UCD virologist, told BreakingNews.ie that he believes more emphasis should be placed on attempts to contain the spread of Covid in the community.
dr Barry said the hospital numbers are a “microcosm” of what’s happening in the population as cases rise.
He said better communication with the public could help with future waves and asked why people weren’t warned about the current surge given data was available five or six weeks ago.
Simple advice like resuming mask-wearing in crowded spaces and regular antigen testing could have helped, according to Dr. Barry to be done before this week.
“It frustrates me that these talks are not being held, or at least do not appear to be, at a high-level political level,” he said.
“At the Government/Department of Health/HSE level, not much else seems to be happening to prevent people from catching it.
“If the virus bounces off immunity walls, it can cause problems down the line.”
He cited the state exams as an example and added that parents and students could have benefited from being informed about a possible wave of infection.
dr Barry said the Department of Health and the body that replaced the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), the Covid-19 Advisory Group, should focus on improving communications along with other measures to contain the spread of Covid-19. 19 curb in the population .
He said this was even more important ahead of the likely winter wave of the virus.
However, he added that the current spread of cases shows that Covid will not necessarily become a seasonal virus as some have predicted.
waves of infection
“If we called our lockdowns to project the hospital system, then huge waves of infection like this winter would not have caused our hospital system to collapse, so we can handle any wave of infection as long as our vaccination can withstand it and doesn’t lead to huge waves of disease.”
“I’m kind of looking at this and I think if you make all your decisions based on hospital numbers and serious illness then we can go ahead and live with the fact that we see massive waves of infection every three to six months.
“If you take a different point of view and say, ‘Having actually large waves of infections, even if they don’t collapse our hospital system, is probably not a good thing’. In terms of if you think in your life most people could count on one hand the times they’ve been very sick, people might have had a bad cold, the odd flu or two that made them sick for a few days made, probably once or twice in their lives for most people.
“If you’re turning that into a week of junk every six months, or possibly feeling a week of junk every three months, depending on what waves we see over the next few years, that’s not exactly a very pretty situation to imagine. “
He also said long-term health risks of continued Covid waves and the impact of long Covid should be considered.
“You also have to think about the long-term effects on the body if that happens. We don’t really know the long-term effects of multiple covid infections, we don’t really know the long-term effects of long covid, we don’t really know what the general public health impact of having multiple waves of infection with the same virus over and over again.
“It could be that our bodies just get used to it that way… that the effects wear off, or it could be that we’re seeing long-term Covid effects in a certain part of the population where you have long-term fatigue, there’s clear evidence In certain cohorts of the population, there’s neurological impact, cardiac impact, there’s an increase in all sorts of problems.”
He added: “I think that’s where we fail. We say, ‘We have the vaccine that we don’t have to try to mitigate or reduce because the vaccine will protect our hospitals… and that’s all that matters.’ .
“I would rather say we need to redouble our efforts to reduce infections without restricting the population. What can we do in society to reduce these waves of infection? We cannot stop them, we can reduce them.” to limit infection in the population without having to impose restrictions.
“These are things like better communication with the public telling them there’s going to be a wave in two or three weeks, so now is the time to start wearing masks again or now is the time to be more regular to conduct antigen tests.”
He said ventilation is another area where work needs to be done, adding that ventilation tests could be added to inspections of restaurants and bars.
Mr Barry said full lockdowns in the future were unlikely unless a new variant emerged that was fully immune resistant. However, he thinks it is likely that all cohorts will be asked to take a second booster shot.
“Even so, you can never predict what will come out of left field with this virus, but as we continue the course we are on the way where we see variants of Omicron or any of the previous versions that bear a resemblance to what we have are dealing with it, then it is likely that the vaccine will continue to provide very good protection.
“I think another refresher is probably recommended for anyone heading into winter or fall. It would boost immunity in the population and help keep any wave that will come in the winter under control, and would help keep people from being hospitalized.
“It may well be the same vaccines that we have, or as regulation and production increases over time, it may well be a slightly modified version of the vaccine that is more variant specific, it may not come in time for the winter, but it may come early next year.
“I would imagine that over the next three to six months everyone will be offered another injection of what we already had just to boost immunity and help us get through the winter when we’re likely to have one Increase in infections will be seen again.
“The most important thing is that the virus keeps changing and it will try to avoid any barrier that we put in front of it. Right now we’re building a big wall of immunity based on our vaccination rates and it’s possible for the virus to get around that, but the important thing is that we have multiple layers of immunity in our bodies. These secondary and tertiary levels of immunity will continue to function well even as the virus continues to evolve.”