It is premature to talk about the end of the pandemic in spring, Petros Karayiannis, a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Virology at the University of Nicosia Medical School, told CNA.
Asked if we are heading towards the end of the pandemic, Professor Karayiannis said that many believe that due to the mildness of the Omicron variant we may be entering the endemic phase of coronavirus. "I think it is too early to say that with certainty, because we have forgotten a thing or two about the coronavirus" he said.
"The first one is the fact that it is mutating and it has so far presented us with at least five variants, of which the last two, Delta and Omicron, were particularly troubling lately. The second one is that, while something new may not emerge, as we are currently seeing a downward trend in the Omicron wave, the Delta variant is still in the community and we may see a new surge," he added.
He noted that these unpredictable factors may play a role in the future, adding that we need to continue to be vigilant and maintain some measures, such as those of personal safety, until we are completely sure.
Coronavirus’ endemic phase
Asked what to expect of the virus’ endemic phase, Professor Karayiannis said that it depends on the prevalent mutation at the given time. "If it is Omicron, we say it is less pathogenic but it is still dangerous for vulnerable groups, such as immunosuppressed individuals" he noted. "The latter’s antibody levels, even with three vaccine doses, continue to be low so there is a lot of discussion at the moment whether these people should get a fourth dose" he said.
Endemic means that the immunity in the community will allow outdoor activities, even at times when that immunity is falling.
"Unfortunately, as regards coronaviruses the immunity is not long term, it is not forever, in some individuals it drops. From our experience with this particular virus, which is only two years old, and because of the vaccines, there are high immunity rates in the community, but we don`t know how that immunity will evolve" he said, adding that these are things that nobody can predict at this point in time.
Asked if the mask will remain a necessary item in our lives, he said that we will be able to answer this question with more certainty in two or three months.
Administration of a fourth vaccine dose was discussed
Dr. Karayiannis said that the administration of a fourth vaccine dose was discussed "in an effort to curb further infections in our nursing homes, especially as we have had several chains of cases lately and we continue to have them."
"But looking at the data from Israel and to how the virus is behaving in our country, we see that our elderly people are relatively mildly ill with the disease and so far I am not aware of anyone requiring hospitalisation. We have therefore adopted the position that we should wait and see how things develop and make a decision accordingly. For the general population we do not think this is necessary at the moment," he added.
Reduction in cases and hospitalisations in the coming days
Professor Karayiannis said that we will see a reduction in cases and hospitalisations in the coming days. "That is what we hope will happen, although in the last three or four days there have been around 2,200 cases daily", he noted.
Asked to comment on a record number of deaths announced on Wednesday, he said these did not concern deaths that occurred in one day. "Yesterday`s deaths were three. It was just a reassessment of some deaths that occurred since January 1 based on death certificates," he added.