A top German virologist, who led a study on how Coronavirus spreads between households, has come out with a warning that the SARS-CoV-2 will continue to affect our lives for another three years.
Hendrik Streeck—a German HIV researcher and epidemiologist—recently said that COVID-19 spikes such as those seen in Scotland in the past few weeks are inevitable for the foreseeable future and people should get used to it.
Coronavirus and the World
Streeck, a professor for virology and the director of the Institute of virology and HIV Research at the University Bonn, Germany said while the biotech companies and researchers are fast-tracking potential Coronavirus vaccine, hopes of a vaccine are not guaranteed. As per the virologist, people should prepare to alter their lifestyle, as the world will continue to battle against the pathogen till 2023.
This week, authorities in Glasgow, East Renfrewshire, and West Dunbartonshire imposed a ban on visiting other households again in the wake of increased indoor gatherings in residential areas. First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has issued a plea not to flout COVID-19 restrictions, with concerns that schools could be forced to close to stamp out Coronavirus infections.
The German Virologist
Streeck helped authorities to lead the response to the pandemic in Heinsberg—one of the hard-hit regions of the country. Along with other experts, the virologist carried out research in Gangelt—a municipality in the district of Heinsberg—to study the SARS-CoV-2 to learn how it spreads and how it can be contained. He and his team finally found that cracking down on house parties will slow down infections.
As per Streeck, the novel Coronavirus, which has already affected over 26 million people and killed more than 870,000 individuals around the world, "is not disappearing...[and] it has become part of our daily lives." He added that the virus will still be here in three years and the world needs to find a way to live with it.
"It is really important to stop super-spreading events where many people gather together as those can cause large outbreaks. We know that social distancing, not gathering in big groups and covering your face can have a profound impact on the infection," said the scientist.
The Study Findings
The study led by Streeck was published in April this year. For the research, the team did a swab and antibody testing on 919 people selected randomly from 405 households in Gangelt. The study revealed that the Coronavirus fatality rate was much lower than first thought and people, 10 times more than previously thought, may have obtained immunity.
"It was an opportunity to look at transmissions and at the same time to understand how likely it is to spread amongst that population," said Streeck while adding that most of the virus infection cases occur in large gatherings and at home. "We had 44 percent of participants at a carnival celebration that had become infected with the Coronavirus. So almost half of them attended that night," said the virologist.
The team of scientists found that 15 percent of the overall population of Gangelt had Coronavirus already. "It is difficult to say if people are immune but we found immunity," said Streeck adding that it is very likely that people are immune but "we cannot say for certain."
As of September 6, Germany has reported over 250,000 Coronavirus cases and more than 9,300 fatalities due to COVID-19.
Streeck said even if a vaccine is discovered, there are doubts over how quickly it can be produced and its efficacy. As per the German scientist, a COVID-19 vaccine may be the answer but "we don't know. It's probable that we will have a vaccine but it maybe next year or longer." He also added that people developing herd immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 sounded "terrible" but this is required in terms of slowing down the infection cases.