It’s hard to think that it was just over a year ago we left the third and final lockdown. Following the success of testing and vaccination programs, restrictions were slowly removed, and for the fortunate ones, we began to regain a sense of normality: homeschooling, social distancing and restricted movement became a distant memory.
But we mustn’t forget why these measures were put in place. Although for most, the COVID-19 infection caused a mild to moderate respiratory illness, for far too many the virus was significantly worse and in some cases fatal. These measures were needed to protect the most vulnerable in our society and prevent our NHS from being overwhelmed.
The Pandemic Still Lingers
Although isolation and testing is no longer mandatory in most countries, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. We all felt a glimmer of hope when the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced in September 2022 that “we have never been in a better position to end the pandemic”, followed by, “we are not there yet, but the end is in sight”.1
This notion is echoed by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) in the UK, that have considered four plausible outcomes for the future course of the COVID-19 pandemic.2 All scenarios assume that a more stable position will eventually be reached over the next few years (2- 10 years). In the short term, there will be a resurgence in the number of infections during autumn/winter of 2022/2023. Unfortunately, in the worst-case scenario this would change to a large wave of infections with increased levels of severe disease.
What is the current status?
Currently it is estimated that in England 1 in 30 people (living in private household) are testing positive for COVID-193. Highlighting the virus continues to circulate within society and poses a threat for the most vulnerable. As winter approaches, we must also consider the implications of any additional strain on our healthcare system, if cases increased dramatically the NHS could become overwhelmed.
So, as we approach this winter it’s important to continue to be vigilant and act responsibly, just as we’ve done throughout this pandemic and as we would do with any other infectious illness.
What Should We All Do To Help?
If we are not feeling well and have COVID-19 symptoms, we should take a test, wear a mask, and maintain a social distance. It is important not to pass COVID to others, particularly the most vulnerable.
We also know that we won’t always display symptoms when infectious, and therefore taking a test before meeting individuals known to be at risk or before attending large social gatherings, will help protect our loved ones and our communities this winter.
The Key Take-Away
COVID-19 is still around, and evidence suggests that it could be with us for some time. Yes, vaccines are leading the way to protecting many from the virus, but as seen in the past, vaccines are not a ‘silver bullet’. It would be easy for every one of us to ignore COVID-19. But in the interest of continuing to protect the vulnerable and helping reduce the burden on the NHS, consider taking simple measures like regular testing, isolating when positive, and always reducing exposure to the vulnerable.