New Coronavirus subvariants are circulating, and infection cases resume their upward trend. The more numerous cases day by day have thus been fueling concern and fear of a new wave for the past few days, pushing the country into a new episode of restrictions. With the approach of the summer season, a scenario like those experienced over the past two years is certainly not what we want, especially with the long-awaited tourist recovery. So what about this new increase in cases? Are we on the threshold of a new wave? Insight from Dr. Tayeb Hamdi.
Let’s start with the serious stuff. Yes ! A new wave is brewing and we will have to face it. According to Dr Tayeb Hamdi, physician and researcher in Health Policy and Systems, “ an accelerated resurgence of cases and a new wave are expected in the coming weeks”. All the indicators confirm an upcoming epidemic rebound. In addition, “all the ingredients for a new wave are well put together”, adds the doctor, citing an increase in the positivity rate which went from 0.5% 5 weeks ago to 12% last Wednesday and a reproduction rate (RT) having reached 1.19 last week, something which indicates ” an epidemic curve that is heading upwards”.
Reasons for an epidemic rebound
All the ” ingredients for a new wave are currently gathered. First of all, ” we have a vaccination that is in slow motion. It has been months since the population received its dose or was contaminated, and therefore the immunity acquired by vaccination or following contamination with the Coronavirus has decreased. Admittedly, it continues to protect the population against serious forms, but it no longer protects sufficiently against infections or reinfections. », explains Hamdi.
In addition, the reopening of global borders and the easing of travel conditions have facilitated the circulation of the virus. ” Travel, summer vacation, resumption of tourism, travel etc. You should know that each time there is a human movement, the virus circulates. Every time there are meetings and gatherings, the virus is spreading. The more travel, encounters, and close contact there are, the more cases there will be “, adds the expert.
As if all these reasons for the increase in cases were not enough, two new sub-variants have been added to the equation: BA4 and BA5. In Morocco, we faced a wave linked to BA1 and which is still dominant in the country. Currently, according to Hamdi, “ BA2, a much more transmissible sub-variant, becomes the majority. In addition, we also have confirmed cases of infection with BA5 which is even more transmissible than the other sub-variants and which causes epidemic waves where it passes. “.
→ Read also: Covid-19: Need to respect preventive measures in the face of a “non-reassuring” epidemiological situation
The icing on the cake ? The release ” total of the population vis-à-vis barrier gestures, thus favoring the triggering of a new wave which would settle in from the days to come.
A new BA5 sub-variant?
BA.4 and BA.5 are sublineages of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. They caused a new wave of Covid in South Africa and Portugal. They are the products of the multiple mutations through which the Omicron variant has passed, itself the results of the mutations of the initial virus causing Covid-19, Sars-Cov-2. Now the majority, this variant has five sub-lineages: BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4 and BA.5. The BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants began to be identified in January and February 2022 in South Africa. They then spread to Portugal, leading to a new wave of Covid-19 in May.
According to Hamdi, “BA1 is more transmissible and gives an accelerating boost to the rise in cases, but BA5 should also be expected to increase in proportion and become the majority in 6 to 8 weeks. It is therefore to be expected that it will rekindle the rise in cases to make a wave of it”.
Should we fear the worst, a scenario similar to 2020?
An epidemic wave is brewing and the virus will continue to spread at an accelerated rate. Nevertheless, the reproduction of a similar scenario at the beginning of the pandemic is unlikely. This is what the expert in health systems affirms: “we will have our wave of contamination, but the number of deaths and serious cases will not be as proportional as it was during the first, second or third wave”.
Despite the increase in cases, the health situation in Morocco should remain “under control”, also says the expert. Serious cases, cases requiring intensive care, even death of course, but these risks remain especially high in people aged 60 or over, suffering from chronic or immunocompromised diseases and who are not vaccinated. “In the days to come, the risk of coming face to face with the virus will be more and more imminent. More people who are not immune, i.e. triply vaccinated, will unfortunately be the first targets of the virus”, regrets the doctor.
Towards a tightening of health measures?
The current waves in South Africa and Portugal related to BA5 have been accompanied by a “notable” increase in serious cases and deaths and the wave that Morocco is experiencing “will not pass without damage”. However, will the number of cases and deaths be so high as to require nationwide restrictive measures? The answer is no ! According to Dr Tayeb Hamdi, the next increase in cases does not pose a risk to health systems or public health.
Roughly speaking, the next wave “should not have a great impact on social life or public health”, reassures our interlocutor. And he argues: “The major restrictive measures are taken when the population is not protected and there is no other way to protect it, or when the number of serious and critical cases is so large that the system of health finds itself overwhelmed. However, today, this is not the case”.
Thanks to the national vaccination campaign launched by the Kingdom in January 2021, the protection rate today exceeds 60%. The population thus has vaccines at its disposal and therefore “the health system is not in danger of collapsing because of this upsurge”, further reassures the researcher, evoking an “active circulation of the virus, but with a risk which is moderate. “.
A responsability “ individual »
The responsibility to protect is an individual responsibility, Hamdi believes. ” Everyone must protect themselves and those around them, and it is neither businesses or schools that will close nor travel that will be restricted to protect unvaccinated people. “, he points out.
” When we have a circulation of the virus which will reproduce itself in the same way in several countries, the main thing is not to have a situation of intense circulation of the virus, i.e. red traffic zones “, explains the health expert. The formula for protection is simple: 95% of contaminations take place in unventilated closed spaces, so you must avoid closed spaces, ventilate them and spend as little time as possible there. If you have to stay in an enclosed space for a long time, wearing a mask is necessary », explains the expert. Gatherings are also auspicious occasions to the spread of the virus, and therefore must be managed “wisely” and take the necessary measures, he adds.
What else should be done? ” The formula is known, ”replies Hamdi insisting on the importance of three-dose vaccination for those aged 60 and over, and of adopting barrier gestures. You have to get vaccinated “now “, he insists. Then, consideration should be given to opening up the possibility of a second booster dose, i.e. a 4e dose of vaccine for vulnerable people, he adds, warning of a wave “ more important ” in winter.