Covid expert: I will keep wearing mask in some non-obligatory settings

From Monday respirators are only required in the Czech Republic on public transport or at health or social care facilities. However, the number of fresh Covid cases has risen almost daily in the last week – raising the question of whether the timing is right. I discussed the situation with biochemist Jan Konvalinka.

Jan Konvalinka | Photo: Pavla Králová,  Český rozhlas

“What I believe is happening is exactly the same as in many countries in Europe, which is that there is a new variant of Omicron, which is BA.2.

“By the way I believe that it deserves its own Greek alphabet letter; it should be P, because it is already different from Omicron BA.1 proper.

“So we have a new variant of the virus which is able to break through the immunity coverage, so you can get reinfection.

“And I’m pretty sure that this is what is happening here.

“In the Czech Republic we have 25 percent of newly infected persons with BA.2 variant, and that is rising.”

The requirement to wear respirators ended almost everywhere in the Czech Republic today, except for on public transport or at health or social care facilities. From your perspective, given that the numbers are rising slightly, is this the right time for this relaxation?

“Well, I am just a simple biochemist.

Photo: Anna Shvets,  Pexels,  CC0 1.0

“But my friends who are epidemiologists have told me that it’s probably premature.

“However, if you consider the political and social consequences, people are simply tired and not really willing to do those measures, to wear the masks.

“I don’t think the politicians are willing and able to make things happen.

“Therefore, it’s probably better to lift the regulation that no-one is observing anyway than to play a game.

“Plus, positivity is rising but I don’t see any rise in the number of hospitalisations or people in difficult situations, in emergency units.

“So it seems that the severity of the infection is not dangerously high, because of the partial immunity of the population.

“So I don’t think there is a major health problem in front of us.”

Will you personally keep wearing a respirator in places where you’re not required to by the rules?

“I will wear them in situations where there is a high density of unknown people.

“I will not wear them in my laboratory or in my workplace – we’ve been meeting each other every day for years, so it doesn’t really make sense to wear them there.

“I will certainly wear masks on public transport and at things like concerts or bigger gatherings where people that do not normally meet would meet.”

Everybody is already tired of Covid after over two years. Many are I presume wondering, Are the days of major waves of Covid, requiring strict measures, behind us? Have we turned a major corner here?

“My answer would be, I do not know. That would be the honest answer.

“My guess is, Yes, they are probably over.

Photo: Pixabay,  CC0 1.0

“Immunity is already here. It’s not 100 percent herd immunity, but immunity against very difficult, severe disease is probably here in 80 or 85 percent of the population.

“Those people who refused to vaccinate after one year of convincing them to should, I think, have the freedom to simply try Russian roulette.

“I don’t think we ought to limit the whole population and deprive the whole population of their freedom, simply because we have a fraction of people who just refuse to listen to reason.

“So yes, I believe the big waves of deadly disease are over.

“And I guess lockdowns and other big measures that would affect the whole community are over as well.

“But I might be wrong [laughs].

“We have to follow the situation very closely, from the biochemical and biological point of view, and try to analyse what’s going on.”