The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week issued an optimistic projection that the pandemic would probably be over during 2022 — provided inequalities in the vaccine coverage and treatment are addressed.
Global health researcher and economist Christopher J L Murray writing for the journal Lancet also said that after the Omicron wave, ‘Covid-19 will return but the pandemic will not.’
Pollard also explains that once health systems can cope with Covid-19, the pandemic could be considered over, but that doesn’t mean that the virus will be gone.
“We have a pandemic because of pressure on health systems and deaths. With growing global immunity as a result of vaccination and previous waves of infection, both severe disease and deaths should decline during 2022,” he says.
Despite this, health experts in Nepal warn that severe infections needing hospitalisation have a lag of a few weeks after the surge in infections. And despite being a milder strain that primarily only affects the upper respiratory tract, Omicron can still lead to serious diseases in the elderly and people with co-morbidities.
Indeed, ICU admissions and those needing ventilator support in hospital have tripled in one month, although nowhere near the figures in April-May. Also, the seven-day average for daily fatalities have remained below five.
Says infectious disease specialist Anup Subedee: “It will still take some time and a few more variants before the pandemic comes to an end. So our health system should be ever ready with the management and treatment of Covid-19, isolation and contact tracing.”
Virologist Pun at Teku agrees: “We are now moving from pandemic to endemic, but this does not mean that we can sound the all clear. We must continue mass vaccinations and safety measures.”
The general consensus is that increased vaccine coverage with boosting, more testing, whole genome sequencing to detect variants, and public adherence to safety measures will determine whether there will be a new surge, or if the virus will taper off.
Nepal has 20 million doses of vaccines in stock for those waiting for first and second jabs, and has started booster shots for high risk groups. However, communication on location, eligibility and requirements for vaccination centres is confusing and inadequate.
With reports from India, Denmark and the Philippines of the even more transmissible ‘stealth Omicron’ sub-variant BA.2 that can evade PCR detection, Nepal needs to continue vigilance. This is also important to determine if the Delta variant is still circuiting and how dominant it is.
“Our Covid figures from the last four days strongly suggest that we have passed the peak,” confirms Sameer Mani Dixit of the Centre for Molecular Dynamics. “But we must keep a close watch on next week’s numbers to know for sure if the cases are just levelling off, still peaking, or if it was just a momentary decline.”