Should we treat Covid like the flu? Europe is slowly starting to think so

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  • There is a growing demand in Europe to treat the coronavirus as an endemic disease like the flu.
  • Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is the latest leader to suggest it is time to re-evaluate COVID.
  • The UK government has already told the public that it must “learn to live with the virus.”

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LONDON – Despite stern warnings from global health officials that the pandemic is not over, there are increasing calls in Europe to treat COVID-19 as an endemic disease like the flu.

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Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is the latest European leader to stick his head over the parapet to suggest it is time to re-evaluate COVID. He called on the EU to debate the possibility of treating the virus as an endemic disease.

“The situation is not the same as we faced a year ago,” Sanchez said. radio interview Spanish schoolchildren return to their classrooms after the holidays on Monday along Spain’s Cadena SER.

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“I think we have to evaluate the evolution of COVID to an endemic disease from the pandemic we’ve faced so far,” he said. Sanchez said it was time to “open up the debate around a gradual re-evaluation of the pandemic, both at the technical level and at the level of health professionals, but also at the European level.”

Sanchez’s comments mark something of a departure from fellow leaders on the continent, however, most of them focused on the immediate challenge of tackling the alarming number of COVID cases caused by the Omicron variant, which is highly contagious but widespread. cause less severe disease. Similar to a cold compared to the flu symptoms seen with earlier forms.

For example, France has been reporting more than 300,000 new daily cases in recent days and Germany on Wednesday reported 80,430 new infections, the most recorded in a single day since the pandemic began, according to Reuters. has been done.

Sanchez’s comments came after politicians in Britain told the British public last year by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that they “need to learn to live with the virus.”

With that in mind, the British government has had to hold its nerve in recent weeks for not imposing new restrictions on the public, despite what Johnson described as a “tidal wave” of cases caused by Omicron. .

UK Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi told the BBC on Sunday that the country was on the road “from pandemic to endemic” as the government said it could shorten the period of self-isolation for those who test positive for Covid. Do tests, which can be from seven days to five (five).As with the latest guidance in the USi) To reduce employee absenteeism at workplace and large scale economic disruption due to COVID.

WHO warns no ‘endemic’ yet

Several epidemiologists and virologists have said that Covid – which first emerged in China in late 2019 before spreading across the world, Over 313 million cases have been reported so far, and over 5 million deaths — is here to stay and will eventually become an endemic disease.

This means that any population in the future will have persistent but low-to-moderate levels of covid, but that the virus should not cause extreme levels of infection or spread from country to country (which again makes it a will create an epidemic).

However, the World Health Organization has warned that it is too early to consider Covid an endemic disease. It warned on Tuesday that the global outbreak is far from being endemic as it is estimated that more than half of people in Europe and Central Asia could be infected with Covid in the next six to eight weeks as the omicron spreads.

Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, Dr Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency official at WHO Europe, said it was too early to suggest that the world was moving into an endemic phase of Covid.

“In terms of spatiality, we’re still a ways away, and I know there’s a lot of discussion around that right now,” Smallwood said.

“The endemicity assumes that there is a stable circulation of the virus at projected levels and that there are potentially known and predicted waves of epidemic transmission,” she said.

“But what we see in 2022 is nowhere near what we are seeing, we still have a huge amount of uncertainty, we still have a virus that is evolving very rapidly and presenting new challenges. So we are definitely not at this point it can be called endemic. It could be endemic in due course but it is difficult at this stage to limit it to 2022.”

Smallwood said that widespread vaccination coverage would be important to move forward in such a scenario, but for now, endemicity conditions were not being met.

Marco Cavallari, head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy at the European Medicines Agency, the EU’s drug regulator, said on Tuesday that “no one knows exactly when we will be at the end of the tunnel” in terms of the pandemic being endemic, but Said progress is being made.

He said in a press briefing, “The important thing is that we are moving towards becoming more endemic of the virus, but I can’t say that we have already reached that stage, so the virus is still going to be a pandemic.” I’m dealing with.”

“Nevertheless, with increased immunity in the population, and much more natural immunity taking place on top of vaccination with Omicron, we will be rapidly moving towards a scenario that will be close to endemic.”

booster puzzle

Worldwide, COVID vaccination remains patchy. While rich countries roll out booster shots and even discuss the possibility of a fourth Covid, poor countries are still releasing their initial doses and many people remain vulnerable to vaccines that can lead to serious infections, hospitalizations Has been proven to reduce the risk of admission and death.

According to our world in the data59.2% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, but in low-income countries only 8.9% have received at least one.

Booster shots are not problem-free, however, with scientists at the WHO and elsewhere warning that frequent boosters are not a viable strategy.

The EMA’s Cavalry said Tuesday that “repeated vaccinations within short intervals will not represent a sustainable long-term strategy.”

“If we have a strategy in which we give boosters every four months, we will potentially eliminate problems with the immune response… so we should be careful not to overload the immune system with repeated vaccinations. Must stay,” he said.

“And secondly, there is a risk of fatigue in the population with continued administration of the booster.” Ideally, Cavallari said, “if you want to move toward the endemicity scenario, such boosters should be synchronized with the arrival of cold weather” and be timed to be given with the flu vaccine.

“We have to think about how we can transition from the current pandemic situation to a more endemic setting,” he said.

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