Hajo Zeeb in conversation: Epidemiologist: “We will be through with the omicron wave before spring” The omicron wall is currently being built in Germany. Because the variant spreads extremely quickly. At the same time, fewer people become seriously ill than with Delta. Epidemiologist Hajo Zeeb sees this as an opportunity. Very likely we’ll be through with the wave before spring. 25,000, 80,000, 90,000 new corona cases within a day. This week in particular, Germany is experiencing how quickly Omikron is causing the number of infections to skyrocket. Experts have already expected this. Why this variant could still help us out of the pandemic – FOCUS Online spoke to the epidemiologist Hajo Zeeb from the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology in Bremen. If countries come from the pandemic situation into an endemic one, Corona loses much of its threat. Although it then circulates among people, fewer and fewer of them become seriously ill and infect fewer and fewer at the same time.FOCUS Online: Omikron is currently spreading strongly in Germany. A new variant was recently discovered in France. How worrying do you think these are?
Hajo Zeeb: We’ve always seen variants of the coronavirus. Of course, there were also other variants parallel to Omikron, at least from a global perspective, which sometimes caused more, sometimes less attention. Among them was, for example, the Brazilian variant, which didn’t catch on with us. In this respect, you always have to keep a certain distance from it at the beginning in order to see how important a variant is. At the moment I actually find it difficult to imagine that we will now get a variant that also overruns the very quickly spreading Omicron variant. I think that’s rather unlikely. However, the fact that other possible variants can occur precisely where omicron is not yet particularly dominant, but where delta also predominates, corresponds to the biology of the mutations. Whether these mutations are worse or less bad than omicron remains to be seen.In fact, for the omicron variant, there are signals pointing to the road to endemics Clues. Would you agree with that?Zeeb: At the moment I’m assuming that we can take the step towards endemics faster with Omikron. A look at South Africa shows that the variant has accelerated the way there. The numbers drop quickly there after the peak. It is similar in Great Britain.
Is that what you see as Omikron’s greatest opportunity?Zeeb: Yes, as long as you can talk about opportunities with viruses. In any case, we now have a much better starting position than if we had to go through a virus wave that brought us more severe courses. She doesn’t and is highly infectious. That’s close to a typical cold virus. This causes symptoms, ails many people, but severely affects few. This situation is accelerated by Omicron. In this respect, we are very likely to be completely through with the wave before spring. Then the infections will decrease again anyway. Combined with an increasing vaccination status, these are very good prospects. The pandemic will likely be over by 2022. Hey Zeeb
So is Omikron perhaps really the “luck” in this pandemic, as you called it recently?Zeeb: Yes, seen in the context of the pandemic, it may be a stroke of luck – in any case, a development that does not mean a setback. Now it just remains to be seen whether we can handle it well, especially when it comes to the hospitals.Exactly, because even if the variant leads to milder courses, it still affects many people at the same time if it spreads quickly. This, in turn, can cause many sufferers to become seriously ill.Zeeb: That’s actually the point. In some countries, the hospitals are already at the limit. In New York, for example, there is a lot going on right now. In Germany, we are currently mostly coping with the infection situation. The question is how high the numbers will rise.
Is a peak already foreseeable here?Zeeb: Not in Germany yet. The overall numbers are now shooting up sharply after the holidays, as expected. I keep looking at neighboring countries. Denmark, for example, had incidences of 1700. That is extremely high and we only know it from a few counties. I estimate that our maximum value will be between the Danish value and the current value.In other words, you brought 2022 into play to end the pandemic in Germany. Are you sticking with it?Zeeb: The pandemic will likely be over by 2022. I wouldn’t see that as unrealistic at the moment. In many countries, the infection simply passed through. She infected many because they were not vaccinated. This makes Corona endemic there. This applies to many African and Asian countries. Others have very good vaccination rates and are therefore in an endemic situation. Even with intensified vaccinations, it will become endemic worldwide. Always, of course, against the background that no other, dangerous variants appear. We can currently assume that in the course of 2022 we will find ourselves in an endemic situation in most countries.Read more: Is the super mutation coming? That’s what the Corona experts sayThat’s quite optimistic. Because WHO experts have repeatedly warned that we need an even more international perspective.Zeeb: Absolutely. You need an international perspective and you have to sharpen your focus on the fact that many people suffer particularly from this situation due to chronic illnesses. That is why the pandemic is also a call to take the other fundamental health problems seriously. This is important for future pandemics.
“In infected people without symptoms, rapid tests are as reliable as a coin toss”
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