“It is good to withdraw covid measures but you have to be prepared to return to them”

The coronavirus is still leaving more than 2,000 new infections a day in the C. Valenciana but the expectation is that, once this sixth wave is over, the anticovid prevention measures will be relaxed until something similar to “normality” returns. 2019. It is the message that politicians are already launching: this Monday, Pedro Sánchez himself announced that the indoor mask was going to be removed “very soon”.

The experts who know the most about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that generates covid-19, however, point out that pre-pandemic normality will not return as such and that although covid measures now begin to be withdrawn, we will have to be prepared and above all “aware because it is unlikely but possible that we will have to return to them, even temporarily.” This is the warning made by Ana Fernández-Sesma and Adolfo García Sastre, two of the world’s most renowned virologists, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York who this week have been in Valencia talking about the flu and new technologies in vaccines at the VII Seqirus Conference.

Whether they have to be resorted to sooner or later will depend on whether new variants appear. “It is normal for it to appear because the virus in its natural form always makes mistakes when replicating. The more viruses there are, the more space there is for genetic errors and one may give it the ability to evade pre-existing immunity”, explains García Sastre. When it can appear or if it will arrive, is another thing. “The fact that there is less circulation of the virus does not prevent a variant from appearing, it prevents it from doing so in a certain time. The difference between more or less people being vaccinated is that this new variant comes faster or less, but the reason for vaccinating as many people as possible should not be that, but rather to save lives”, the researcher remarks.

Waiting to see if this happens, both predict that this summer a certain normality can already be experienced, but they draw a medium and long-term panorama of coexistence with the new coronavirus in which life will return to being “semi-normal” because there are things that They have come to stay, like certain prevention measures.

“Improved Normal”

“We have learned that this is unpredictable. We already know that there are things that work and if another variant happens to arise, we know how to quickly tackle it. People were very affected by the confinement, but if there are outbreaks, they will have to be implemented, although it will be temporary. You have to have a more open mind, “says Fernández Mesa.

“I don’t call it going back to normal, we’re going to evolve. Like when cell phones appeared. If from now on they do an antigen test to go to a nursing home or you put on a mask to go to a hospital, it is not the normality of before but it will be an improvement. It is taking precautions that do not mean much on your part but are positive, “adds García Sastre.

In this “improved” normality, experts point out that more emphasis will be placed on the individual use of the mask with any respiratory infection or on improving air filtration in closed spaces.

Because the pandemic, as such, may have an end, but the coronavirus is not going to disappear from our lives. That is why they are talking about their “influenza”: it will remain as a new seasonal virus that will cause problems in a timely manner (and leaving deaths) but will no longer generate the health crisis experienced in these two years. “From now on, SARS-CoV-2 is going to produce a disease that is no longer covid-19 due to our immunity, due to its evolution… it is going to become a different one and the way of managing the disease has also changed. disease in hospitals”, points out García Sastre.

The fact that Fernández-Sesma “comes with the flu” does not mean at any time that he becomes trivial because the flu is not a minor disease either, as he recalls. “If we compare it, it is because with the flu people have a reference but there are many people who do not really know how serious the flu is,” both point out, recalling the number of deaths that this infection leaves every year: 4,000 direct deaths in Spain in a “good” season such as 2019-2020, 6,300 in the previous one. «I do not trivialize it in the sense of trivializing it, it is a serious problem but deaths from the flu are socially accepted and the time will come when deaths from covid are socially accepted. The difference is that there are going to be more treatments for coronavirus and it will not lead to the collapse of hospitals as it has been until now,” adds the virologist.