Wear masks, the battle against Covid is not over yet

Human behaviour has changed since 2020 but people tend to go back to their old ways, which has triggered the recent spike in cases

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AFP file
AFP file

Published: Mon 13 Jun 2022, 11:22 PM

First, the good news about Covid: the disease is not as deadly as before; mortality rates are very low, thanks to vaccines. Combined with the spread of global infections that have boosted mass immunity against the coronavirus, the world is a safer place than it was two years ago. Experts have gathered some vital data about the pathogen and are less alarmed because they know more about how it behaves. Now, the bad news: the virus is still changing, evolving, and spreading among the population. Omicron itself has changed its spikes.

This evolutionary process will continue for a while but epidemiologists and researchers may soon predict what new variants may emerge and develop vaccines that target them. The other option is to develop a shot that works against all coronaviruses. It’s not impossible as newer mRNA technology has done wonders during the pandemic.

mRNA was used to produce Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against the pathogen, but that didn’t stop the virus from evolving in two years to escape immune responses. Human behaviour has changed since 2020 but people tend to go back to their old ways, which has triggered the recent spike in cases. Masking and hand-washing had become part of daily routines. Hygiene levels had improved as people maintained social distancing of two meters. But as vaccination rates improved, residents decided to live normally again. Trouble is, these are not normal times yet.

The World Health Organization won’t call the situation an endemic because cases continue to rise in many regions of the world. Take the UAE for instance, with a 100 per cent vaccination rate among adults, the highest in the world. The number of infections has jumped 100 per cent in just over a week. What may have caused this rise? People began mingling and discarded masks. They travelled more, with some even indulging in ‘revenge travel’ while throwing hygiene to the winds in their quest for the normality they once enjoyed. Most movement restrictions were eased by the government. There was a clear strategy and the execution was close to flawless. People were protected and vaccines were rolled out as early as December 2020.

The best jabs were procured and reached people’s arms for free. Coming back to the rise in cases, human behavior is to blame, and the government has stepped in to restore some Covid protocols. Masks will now be enforced in public places and violators will be fined Dh3,000. There are concerns as hospital admissions have increased, though the numbers were not revealed in Monday’s briefing. While government efforts have ensured the worst of the pandemic is over in the UAE, individuals and the community must do their bit to keep it that way. This is a fight that is not over yet. And it can be won only if all are responsible.

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