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    Turn the page on COVID-19? Not so fast, say experts

    Transmission electron micrographs of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (UK B.1.1.7 variant) isolated from patient samples and cultured in cell culture. Credit: NIAID

    As global COVID cases decrease and pandemic fatigue increases, many countries have relaxed restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.

    But experts say it’s too early to declare victory. It warns that access to unequal vaccines can lead to the emergence of new and more deadly variants of the virus.

    Positive signs

    On September 14, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced “the first significant decline of the week.” [COVID] A total of 4 million cases have been more than two months old since the new infection in the week of September 6.

    In its latest update this week, WHO said the number fell again the following week to 3.6 million and the death toll fell to just under 60,000.

    In Europe, where the majority of adults are currently vaccinated, Pandemic It appears to be declining after a surge in infections caused by delta variants.

    “I have most of the world (including most of Europe and the Americas) Final stage François Burrow of the University of London tweeted last week.

    “We don’t anticipate a wave of COVID-19 that will occur in the coming months / years, but comparable to what we have experienced in the last 18 months.”

    Epidemiologist Mircea Sofonea, an expert on the evolution of infectious diseases at the University of Montpellier, said COVID is now spreading differently, especially in Europe.

    “We see a transition from wave patterns to less high, more scattered spikes,” he told AFP.

    This improvement has made some European countries bold to end some or all of the pandemic-related restrictions, as Denmark did on September 10.

    “You can tell if the Danish test is positive in a couple of weeks,” epidemiologist Antoine Fraho told AFP.

    Depending on what happens in Denmark, he asks, “Is it possible to encourage other European countries to disseminate health passes and even remove masks without risking a new pandemic surge?” He said it would be decided.

    “If the infection increases again, the measures could be reinstated at any time,” he added.

    Reasons to be careful

    So is the pandemic in the final stages?

    Virologist Julian Tang told AFP by email.

    So far, the statement on how the pandemic is going “must be very country- or region-specific,” he said.

    “Currently, there are clear inequality in the coverage of vaccinations around the world,” said Tang.

    Frahout, director of the University of Geneva’s Institute for Global Health, said less than two percent of the world’s poorest people even received the first dose of the vaccine.

    “In certain places such as Eastern and Central Europe, Africa, Asia, Israel, Canada, El Salvador and Belize, the pandemic cannot be said to be behind us due to the exponential growth of cases. “He said.

    Experts warn that things could turn around even in rich, well-vaccinated countries that are on the decline.

    As the Northern Hemisphere approaches winter, people are once again drawn to large indoor rallies that promote virus circulation.

    “When we enter the middle of autumn, we must be aware of the situation in Europe and North America,” says Sophonea.

    “What we know about this pandemic is that it’s unpredictable,” Frahout added.

    “No one had foreseen the emergence of the Delta subspecies in India last spring, despite fears that it would happen.”

    Reasons to worry

    Highly contagious delta mutants are currently predominant worldwide.

    Vaccines are less effective at preventing their spread, but they are still very effective at preventing hospitalization and death.

    But that can change.

    “If mutations in the delta variant increase resistance to existing vaccines, it could reverse the improvements currently being seen,” Frahout said.

    He added that a large proliferation of infections is likely to cause the emergence of new variants, as the majority of the population of poor countries is unvaccinated.

    “As long as the virus circulates fast somewhere in the world, we are not safe from the new wave,” Frahout said.

    “Now, for the safety of the world, we must vaccinate as many people on the planet as possible.”


    Did Delta kill the dream of herd immunity?


    © 2021 AFP

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