Covid-19 expert: “The numbers are very low, yet they are all rising”

Covid-19 has been back in the news cycle in recent weeks, with cases on the rise across the world. On Monday, Health Minister Vlastimil Válek urged Czechs to get their Covid booster and flu vaccines, with priority being given to those in vulnerable groups. To get a better understanding of the picture here in Czechia, we spoke to molecular geneticist Dr. Jan Pačes.

Jan Pačes | Photo: archive of Jan Pačes

“So far the numbers are very low, yet they are all rising. What we can predict is that in one month, the number of infected people will grow. Like with the flu, at some point it will become too much, and then it would be a good idea to start taking some protective measures. The issue is, even if you get Covid and you have no symptoms or very mild symptoms, you can still get long Covid. It looks like people are not protected against long Covid even after the second or third infection, you can still get it. Long Covid is something that can make your life much harder, you can lose smell, get some physiological and psychological problems like brain fog. Covid is not an easy disease that we can just forget about.”

While the number of infections are currently low, tracking new Covid-19 cases here in Czechia is not easy, and little is known about the impact of new variants such as Pirola and Eris, says Dr. Pačes.

“During summer, the numbers of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths dropped very low. But we do not have the exact numbers, because Covid-19 is no longer a disease that has to be reported, so we do not have much information.”

When it comes to the efficacy of vaccines against new variants, the information available now points to certain shots being more effective than others.

Photo: KitzD66,  Pixabay,  CC0 1.0 DEED

“It seems that the Novavax vaccine is the best in terms of how it reacts with the current variant, and it seems that it will work on this particular variant in a similar way as it did against the other variants. The protection will be very good against hospitalization and death, but still not so good at preventing the spread of the virus.”

While it is uncertain what the coming months will bring in terms of the severity of infections, Dr. Pačes explains how modelling the behaviour of Asian countries could be a means to combat the spread of infections.

“I think we in Europe should adopt what was done in Asia a long time ago – that when you are sick or not feeling well and infectious disease numbers are high, that you use a facemask in public transportation or concerts. This is not a big deal, and it could really help in stopping or slowing the spread of any infectious diseases.”