WHO reports that we have now seen seven consecutive weeks of increasing cases, and four weeks of increasing deaths. Last week was the fourth-highest number of cases in a single week so far.
This is even though more than 780 million doses of vaccine have now been administered globally. Its already been established that Covid 19 is not like a flu. Young, healthy people have died. And experts do not still fully understand the long-term consequences of infection for those who survive.
With a concerted effort to apply public health measures alongside equitable vaccination, we could bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months.
In January and February, the world saw six consecutive weeks of declining cases.
We have now seen seven consecutive weeks of increasing cases, and four weeks of increasing deaths.
Last week was the fourth-highest number of cases in a single week so far.
Several countries in Asia and the Middle East have seen large increases in cases.
“Make no mistake, vaccines are a vital and powerful tool. But they are not the only tool” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General said.
“Physical distancing works. Mask’s work. Hand hygiene works. Ventilation works. Surveillance, testing, contact tracing, isolation, supportive quarantine, and compassionate care – they all work to stop infections and save lives”.
But confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures and their application are driving transmission and costing lives. It takes a consistent, coordinated and comprehensive approach.
“So many countries around the world have shown that this virus can be stopped and contained with proven public health measures and strong systems that respond rapidly and consistently”.
“As a result, many of those countries have gained control over COVID-19, and their people are now able to enjoy sporting events, concerts, restaurants and seeing their family and friends safely”.
“WHO does not want endless lockdowns. The countries that have done best have taken a tailored, measured, agile and evidence-based combination of measures. We too want to see societies and economies reopening, and travel and trade resuming”.
“But right now, intensive care units in many countries are overflowing and people are dying – and it is totally avoidable”.
In some countries, despite continuing transmission, restaurants and night clubs are full, markets are open and crowded with few people taking precautions.
Some people appear to be taking the approach that if they are relatively young, it doesn’t matter if they get COVID-19.
Many people who have suffered even mild disease report long-term symptoms including fatigue, weakness, “brain fog”, dizziness, tremors, insomnia, depression, anxiety, joint pain, chest tightness and more, which are symptoms of long-COVID.
This pandemic is a long way from over. But we have many reasons for optimism.
The decline in cases and deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped.
A concerted effort to apply public health measures alongside equitable vaccination could bring the pandemic under control in a matter of months.
“Whether we do or not comes down to the decisions and the actions that governments and individuals make every day. The choice is ours!”
By Joe Cusmano