It’s the phrase we never thought we’d hear. The end of the Covid 19 pandemic is “in sight”.
It comes from none other than the World Health Organization (WHO). But the optimism is tempered by the warning that, like a marathon runner nearing the finish line, this is the time to run harder.
It’s a change from the dark but what does it mean for Ireland and where do we stand in the race against Covid-19?
reasons for hope
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ cheerful message about the world’s “winning position” was based on several hopeful signs. Last week, the number of reported Covid-19 deaths worldwide was the lowest since March 2020.
The monthly deaths reported in Ireland may include deaths that happened much earlier, but even based on these numbers the trend is stable, even if the numbers fluctuate. 353 Covid-19-related deaths were reported here in April, falling to 109 in June but rising again to 155 in July.
They are a mix of people who have either died from the virus or who already had underlying conditions with Covid-19.
The mean age was 77 years. Booster shots as well as antiviral therapies with safety nets like Paxlovid have had a tremendous impact.
When the acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. When Breda Smyth presented her weekly Covid-19 report last Friday, she found that the overall picture was broadly stable. There are 242 patients with Covid-19 in the hospital, still a “significant burden,” she said. Yesterday that dropped to 236.
About four out of ten were there because of Covid-19 complications, the rest is accidental. Fourteen Covid-19 patients were in intensive care yesterday, down from eight two weeks ago, with around a third becoming seriously ill with the virus.
Doctors report mildly severe respiratory failure, which was a feature early in the pandemic. The frail elderly, those with very weak immune systems and the unvaccinated remain vulnerable to the infection.
High infection rates
dr Smyth pointed to the persistently high infection rates, although the positivity rate among the limited number of people getting PCR tests fell in early summer, with a 15.3 per cent drop in those reported cases last week.
But perhaps there is something to consider with the positive home antigen test results after returning to school and the unsettled weather. About 3,116 positive antigen tests were registered, slightly more than in the previous week.
It could be a signal that we’re turning a corner, with an inevitable surge as we all return indoors.
The county with the highest incidence last week was Leitrim, followed by Cavan, Sligo, Limerick, Kerry and Waterford. The lowest were in Mayo and Cork.
The arrival of a more contagious variant, which could also be serious, is the great fear. So far, BA.5 has dominated here, fending off everyone else. Trinity College immunologist Prof Kingston Mills said the situation regarding a potentially important new variant remains very “unpredictable”.
One of the reasons for optimism is the upcoming launch of new Pfizer vaccines targeting BA.5 and BA.4. However, the full extent of their impact will depend on the virus not changing again. Prof Mills said these new generation vaccines should be better at reducing the chance of infection.
The National Immunization Advisory Committee (NIAC) decides who gets them first. Prof Mills said booster fatigue needed to be addressed, and he wondered if a campaign to encourage uptake ahead of the winter would have been more effective than the ongoing radio ads.
While the WHO was positive, it also provided a number of important documents to health authorities around the world around Covid-19 surveillance, vaccination, testing and treatment.
dr Smyth creates Ireland’s winter Covid-19 plan She’s amid pressure to cut pandemic spending amid the cost-of-living crisis. The HSE intends to further reduce PCR testing. The Health Protection Surveillance Center will be given more responsibility for surveillance, with feedback from GP practices.
There must be a willingness to step up testing if we see another dangerous spike. Covid-19 could be in for more nasty surprises, but for now there is some comfort in the brighter tone about the future.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/is-ireland-ready-for-the-big-sprint-as-who-says-the-covid-19-pandemic-finish-line-is-in-sight-41993214.html Is Ireland ready for the big sprint as WHO says Covid-19 pandemic finish line is in sight?