It is premature to talk about the end of the Covid-19 pandemic this spring as there might be a Delta variant outbreak, a health ministry’s advisor said on Friday.
Responding to reports suggesting Omicron, which has proven to be spreading fast while causing milder illness, might signal the end of the pandemic, Dr Petros Karayiannis said “it’s too early to say that with certainty”.
Karayiannis, who is a professor of microbiology and molecular virology at the medical school of the university of Nicosia, said coronavirus has unpredictable factors.
First of all, Karayiannis said, the virus is mutating and so far it has presented us with at least five variants of which the last two, Delta and Omicron, have been “particularly troubling us lately”.
The second factor is the possibility that an existing variant may become dominant, with the professor giving the example of Delta variant “which is still in the community, and we may see a new surge”.
He added we are currently seeing a downward trend in the Omicron wave. Daily coronavirus cases, Karayiannis said have been stable at less than 2,500 in the last several days.
But for coronavirus to be considered “endemic” he said, it means the immunity in the community will be such that it will be allowed to circulate at times.
“Unfortunately, with coronaviruses the immunity is not long-term, it’s not forever. In some individuals it drops,” the professor said.
Despite high vaccine rates, scientists “don’t know how that immunity will evolve” and whether when that “immunity” drops, if the coronavirus will reappear.
“These are things that at this point in time nobody can predict,” he explained, citing the limited two-year- experience with the virus.
The professor highlighted that people must continue be vigilant and abide by the measures explaining that it is too soon to know for how long face masks will be required.
Discussions were also tabled for the administration of a fourth vaccine dose but no decisions were taken yet.
The proposal was discussed “in an effort to curb infections in our nursing homes especially as we have had several chains of cases lately” Karayiannis said, “but looking at the data from Israel and how the virus is behaving in our country we see that our elderly are relatively mildly ill so far”.
“We should wait and see how things develop and make a decision accordingly. For the general population at the moment we do not think this is necessary,” he added.