All that can be done to contain the delta variant

All that can be done to contain the delta variant

Before reaching the closures, many other actions and strategies that can be implemented: not only vaccines, but also a remodeling of green pass, quarantines and tracking

(photo: Ayelt Van Veen / Unsplash) Although with still small absolute numbers, even in our country the delta variant of the coronavirus is starting to make itself felt. Day after day, the daily bulletins provided by the Civil Protection and the Higher Institute of Health record an irrefutable turnaround in terms of positive cases and the rate of positivity, which is not yet perceptible as regards hospital admissions, deaths and employment of women. intensive care.

Although the pandemic has taught us all too well that it is difficult and not very sensible to make predictions on the trend of curves, based on what is happening in several other European countries it is considered very likely that the delta variant - now found in one case out of three - will also become prevalent in Italy, probably exceeding two thirds of new cases by the end of August. And again, according to the less optimistic projections, even before the end of July there will be a return to some thousands of infections a day in our country as well.

Naturally this is a situation that certainly cannot be faced remain passive, so much so that in these days we are already starting to discuss how to limit the spread of the variant (which is characterized by a higher contagiousness) before the circulation of the virus gets out of hand and we can do nothing but proceed with new unwanted restrictions and closures. But what actions can be taken in practice? We have collected some of the most talked about ideas here.

Vaccination is more important than ever

Even if we know that no vaccine is able to protect 100%, let alone from contagion, the data that are accumulating in recent weeks also in Italy they are eloquent: vaccination drastically reduces the likelihood of developing severe forms of Covid-19, that is, those that involve hospitalization or lead to death. And this is generally true for all variants (at most with a few percent variation), delta included.

Just think that in July, if you look at the over 80 bracket, that small 8% composed of non vaccinated and by people who have not yet completed the double administration corresponds to 35% of registered cases, 59% of hospital admissions, 78% of intensive care occupations and 70% of deaths. However, once again confirming that the decrease in vaccine efficacy attributable to variants concerns infections (the average coverage is still estimated at 80% to date) and not serious cases.

For this reason the vaccination campaign has become even more a race against time: if you imagined having the months of July, August and September to conclude the first round of administrations, the arrival of the delta variant makes it necessary to further tighten the times, because the inversion in the contagion curves waiting for the end of summer is already happening. Naturally, coverage of the most fragile part of the population is a priority, starting with those two and a half million (approximately) over 60s still uncovered, without forgetting the 200,000 school operators and other strategic professional categories. And then including all the continuation of the vaccine action, including any third doses, reformulations of the vaccine and so on.

Rethinking the parameters, in every sense

In the light of new epidemiological data and of the new scientific evidence, several voices have raised the request to reformulate part of the criteria adopted so far, in some cases making them more permissive and in others by operating a "crackdown". The latter category first of all includes the idea of ​​changing the rules to obtain the Italian green pass: on the one hand, postponing the release to two weeks after the second dose instead of two weeks after the first (since with a single dose the coverage is only partial), and on the other hand increase the number of activities and places for which the green pass is necessary. Not only stadiums, concerts, banquets and events, therefore, but potentially also other activities in which gatherings tend to be created. One of the most radical hypotheses put forward is that of the green pass to go to the restaurant, but at the moment the measure is considered impracticable given that the audience of the unvaccinated is still 24 million people, too large to be manageable.

On the side of the easing of the measures, however, one of the proposals in the field is to change the criteria for the passage of the regions from one color to another. In particular, given the effect of vaccines to contain severe forms much more effectively than the infections themselves, one possible direction is to reduce the importance of the number of registered cases (to date the threshold is 50 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants for the yellow zone), increasing on the other hand that of hospitalizations, hospitalizations and deaths. In short, in this way a region with many vaccinated people would be favored, since a lower number of serious cases would be expected compared to the total cases recorded.

At the same time, however, several media have also reported the proposal to introduce a further constraint: to be able to remain in the white zone, each region should continue to carry out a minimum number of swabs, equal to 150 per week for every 100 thousand inhabitants, of a molecular type if possible. Instead, there was no mention of an abandonment of the Rt index, which would remain one of the key factors, albeit with less importance in the hierarchy of parameters. And in parallel, what is hoped for is an improvement in tracing, in order to identify outbreaks early, especially if they are of the delta variant.

All this could, at least in theory, lead to a further rationalization of the rules, in order to improve coexistence with the virus and to introduce restrictions only where and when they are actually necessary and useful. If, on the other hand, the rules were not to be changed, already at least four regions (Abruzzo, Campania, Marche and Sicily) would seem to have a trend such as to pass into the yellow zone within a few weeks, with the summer season still largely underway, always assuming that the curves proceed. without further trend changes.

The right means of masks and discos

If from the point of view of containing the infection there is no doubt that the use of the mask is one of the key strategies, the discussion remains open about the occasions when it can be expected to do without them. In this case, however, it would seem that no changes are foreseen, at least for the summer months: no obligation outdoors except for gatherings and an obligation more than ever confirmed in closed places.

What, however, seems to be difficult to apply, to the practical act is the rational use of masks outdoors. In many cases the rule of wearing a mask when in overcrowded conditions is ignored. It happens in the places of nightlife, it happened for the celebrations after the victory at the European Championships of the national team and it happens regularly in the most crowded streets of the cities. In this case, in addition to relying on collective common sense, the strategy that could be adopted is that of tightening controls, with law enforcement officers positioned in the places with the highest probability of gathering to verify that the obligation to wear the mask as well as in force today is really respected. And the same should also apply to many other anti-contagion measures, from spacing in supermarkets to hand hygiene, from temperature control to respecting the minimum distance when standing in line, trusting that the general summer relaxation does not turn into a total loss of the necessary attention.

However, this is a difficult situation to calibrate, as the case of discos also demonstrates. For the moment, its reopening has been announced, although the date has not yet been set, but the increase in cases could change your mind again. At the same time, however, the prolongation of time is increasing the number of "abusive" or "masked" discos, so much so that the question is being raised whether it is better to officially open in a more regulated way or whether to continue to keep closed favoring the multiplication of non-compliant realities.

Travel abroad with more attention

The delta variant has already been in Italy for some time and in any case it will be impossible in the future to prevent arrival and the diffusion of specific variants. However, there is no doubt that those countries (or regions) where viral circulation is highest is more likely to return with the virus in the body, as happened in the summer of 2020.

For this reason, a specific quarantine measure is being evaluated for those returning to Italy from countries where the delta variant is more widespread. In addition to the United Kingdom - for which the measure is already in force - the quarantine could be foreseen starting from Spain and Portugal, and should be 5 days long. However, this measure is insufficient to stem the spread, but which could allow us to arrive at the end of the summer with an overall situation still well under control, so as to allow the resumption of activities (school, sports and commercial) in the most normal way possible. >

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