The vicious cycle of repeated waves of COVID-19 | Coronavirus


The vicious cycle of repeated waves of COVID-19 | Coronavirus

Repeating waves of COVID-19 continue to have impacts at all levels and the consequences are piling up, warns Professor Christina Pagel.

The abandonment of almost all sanitary measures has pushed us into a vicious cycle of waves of COVID-19, warn health experts. In addition to population health impacts, each new wave has significant socio-economic consequences.

Each new wave of COVID-19 impacts our health system. education and health, pushing workers out of the labor market and disrupting people's lives. How is this a sustainable approach? How many waves will we see before leaders act?, asks a professor from University College London.

This week, Christina Pagel, director of the Clinical Operations Research Unit at University College London, which studies various analytical methods to solve various health problems, published a text explaining how and why the world has entered a vicious cycle of waves of COVID-19.

According to this member of Independent SAGE, an independent group of researchers who offer scientific advice for the management of the pandemic, it is increasingly clear that living with COVID-19 without mitigation measures only prolongs the pandemic.

Living with the virus means nothing. It just means that we are trying to return to normal by ignoring the situation, she said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

She misunderstands the current indifference politicians and the public as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc at all levels.

It's not normal to have a wave in the summer, to have a third wave for six months. It is not normal that we cancel hundreds of flights because we lack employees. It is not normal that we lack teachers in schools because they are infected; some have been two, three or even four times. We have not returned to normal.

Christina Pagel is Director of the Clinical Operations Research Unit at University College London and a member of Independent SAGE in the UK.

According to Ms. Pagel, the abandonment of almost all sanitary measures has pushed us into a vicious circle of waves of COVID-19. Beyond the impacts on the health of the population, each new wave has significant socio-economic consequences.

In the school environment, when there is a new wave of infections, it is not only the infected children who miss many days of school, but also the teachers, repeatedly infected, who must be replaced.

Infected children and teachers then pass the virus on to their families, forcing sick parents to self-isolate and miss days of work.

The more days workers miss work due to infection or re-infection, the more pressure they feel to return to work before their isolation ends or even go to work while sick .

Furthermore, says Pagel, many people on low incomes or in precarious jobs cannot afford to stay at home. Many people cannot take two or three weeks of leave, cannot do without this income or risk being fired.

Thus, community transmission continues briskly and increases the number of infections.

Ms Pagel reminds us that we must not ignore the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have symptoms that persist. Long-term illnesses and people disabled [by this illness] are increasing with every wave and draining our workforce.

Even the Bank of England has warned that the pandemic is having an impact on labor shortages, she points out.

Then there is the x27; impact on health systems, which no longer manage to recover damage from previous waves. There is simply no respite for healthcare workers, she says.

Finally, the longer the virus is allowed to spread, the greater the risk mutations, which can lead to the appearance of new, more contagious and more virulent variants.

In 2022, the waves were closer and closer and were bigger than in previous years, recalls Ms. Pagel.

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The vicious cycle of the waves of COVID-19.

And each new variant brings a new cycle of infections and socio-economic consequences.

How many times will we experience this vicious circle before the authorities act? Ms. Pagel asks.

“I just don't understand why we hope that each wave will be the last, when this is clearly not the case. Do you really want to be infected two, three, or four times a year?

—Christina Pagel, University College London

Ms. Pagel says that we should not only focus on the impacts of the current wave; it should also not be forgotten that the negative consequences accumulate and put everyone in an increasingly precarious situation.

Vaccines have been fantastic in reducing deaths and severe complications, but they don't stop this mass infection, they don't stop the disruptions in our society and they are slowly eroding many services and institutions.


Letting new waves roll in one after another makes our lives much less predictable, adds Pagel. I think people are starting to notice the impact on their daily lives.

She's not the only one who thinks that. This is the case of Professor Raymond Tellier, medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Center (MUHC) and associate professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University.

Every time you have a new variant, there are negative consequences and there is a cumulative effect. We will suffer the repercussions of this pandemic for a very long time. There will still be many dead and disabled, Mr. Tellier fears.

André Veillette, immunologist at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute, is also worried about seeing repeated waves. We go from one wave to another without recovering from the wave before. Society and the people we depend on to make society work are not restored. We try to go too fast and we get burned.

“It's not just a health or medical problem at this point here. It has become a social and economic problem. Society is neither able nor ready to return to full speed. »

— André Veillette, Clinical Research Institute of Montreal

Ms. Pagel misunderstands how, before 2020, authorities had no problem spending millions of dollars to prevent influenza and other infectious diseases, but are now reluctant to adopt measures to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

“Why did we stop wanting to reduce the transmission of COVID-19? If we had three, four or five flu seasons a year, we would have already acted. »

— Christina Pagel, University College London

For her part, Mr. Tellier believes that this virus has been underestimated. Many expected it to be like 2009 with the H1N1, to be over quickly. But that's not what's happening.

That's why Mr. Tellier and Ms. Pagel believe in continuing to take the pandemic seriously, despite the ras- generalized bowl.

Nature, not politicians, will have the final say, says Tellier. We cannot simply say: "I don't feel like it".

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a new warning this week: the pandemic is not over.

We are playing with fire by letting this virus circulate at such high levels, Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Officer for COVID-19 at WHO, tweeted recently. We are not yet living with COVID-19 responsibly. We are not even close to getting there.

She also lamented the fact that people continue to die unnecessarily, that millions of people are infected every week and that many people are living with long term sequelae of the disease, the long COVID.

What keeps me up at night is seeing complacency, she writes.

Wearing a mask is no longer mandatory in the majority of places, but experts believe it would be prudent to wear it in some situations (in closed and poorly ventilated places, in crowds and on public transport).

According to Tellier, if the world has been blinded by the desire to return to a pre-pandemic state, it may take another few years before a return to normal, without sanitary measures. We must keep a few precautions, he believes.

Ms. Pagel would like to point out, however, that no one wants to return to the confinements of the first waves or to the extremely severe measures imposed in Shanghai.

“There's this idea that we can either shut everything down and go into lockdown or do nothing. It is not the case at all. »

— Christina Pagel, University College London

While vaccines are a remarkable tool for reducing the risk of severe complications from the disease, André Veillette reminds us that he should not bet only on this tool.

Wearing a mask in certain situations (e.g. crowds and public transport), improving the ventilation of buildings (schools, hospitals, shopping centers, businesses, etc.) and access to financial assistance for those who need to isolating are three essential measures to try to break this vicious circle of waves, these experts say.

These measures will not entirely eliminate COVID-19, agrees Ms. Pagel. But any reduction in transmission helps reduce the size of new waves and can break the vicious circle.

She adds that governments need to stop blaming people. This approach is inefficient. I cannot, as an individual, change the ventilation at my work. I can manage my risk, but I can't manage what the people around me are doing…

Ms Pagel believes the more socio-economic disruption there will be from waves repetitive, the more the public will hold politicians to account. Maybe once people get infected a third or fourth time, they will ask governments to take action.


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