Expert opinions

Is world ready for new Covid strains?

Covid-19 morbidity in European countries is once again on the rise, to the point that the WHO addressed governments of all countries urging them to reinstate the restrictions that were in place during the pandemic and to adjust them depending on the rapidly changing situation.

Muscovites advised to wear masks in public areas again due to growing cases of Covid-19. Photo courtesy of Vitaly Belousov/ RIA Novosti

In addition to Omicron, Stealth Omicron, BA.4/BA.5 and the Delta variant, the widely spreading new strain of the virus, BA.2.75 Centaurus, poses a new challenge for healthcare systems.

The new outbreak has come to Russia as well. The Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection recorded an increase in the number of cases. Infectious disease experts predict that the incidence rate will peak between mid-August and the fall.

New challenges and unresolved issues

Over the first years of the pandemic, the healthcare systems around the world acquired the necessary experience and achieved serious progress in combating the virus, with vaccines developed along with telemedicine, technologies replacing inpatient treatment and other tools that helped prevent hospitalizations and deaths. The situation in healthcare is currently substantially better than at the onset of the pandemic.

However, not all the lessons of the pandemic have been properly learned.

The growing incidence rate creates additional workload for the overwhelmed healthcare systems and overworked medical staff. There is still an acute shortage of medical workers, especially in primary care. The staffing resources in healthcare have been exhausted by the pandemic. The Healthcare Ministry announced expanded enrollment of medical students with more places available for applicants – and yet, it will be a few years before fresh graduates enter the labor market. Right now, it is important to speed up digitalization to take the excessive burden off doctors, and to continue developing their compensation system.

Based on the accumulated experience, officials are to modernize the public awareness system. The emergency measures such as control over Covid-19 patients and their contacts were met by the public with an ambiguous response. Now we need a more transparent and prompt awareness system, which will not be easy to create. There is still a serious gap between the scientific community, politicians and the public in their assessment of Covid-19 risks.

The healthcare system reacted to the pandemic rather swiftly, with Covid-19 hospitals unfolded across the country and doctors reassigned to treat Covid patients. Rehabilitation of former patients was a stage that received much less attention. Full-fledged rehabilitation with necessary stages of electrotherapy is not available in public healthcare. At the same time, rehabilitation is required even for patients with mild symptoms. If immunity is compromised, the virus will easily break through the protection of the vaccine or naturally developed anti-bodies.

Nosocomial infections are another serious threat for Covid patients as they are the most common cause of death among hospital-treated Covid patients. The WHO reports that 3.6–19.1% of all hospitalized patients are affected by hospital-acquired infections, with estimated damage worth $35–88 bln per year. In Russia, lower respiratory tract infections account for one-third of all reported cases.  

Whats next

How big the new Covid outbreak will be in Russia largely depends on the precautions to be taken by officials.  

Several other factors will play a significant role, including the level of post-vaccination immunity, cell-mediated immune response and resistance to infections, and personal precautions.  

Despite spreading rapidly, Covid now causes milder or no symptoms at all, manifesting itself like a common respiratory infection. This is excellent news. Strong immunity is capable of effectively resisting the viral load.

Immunity can and must be trained, the sooner the better. In the fall, our bodies switch modes and their adaptive abilities decline.

To boost immunity, it is perfectly sufficient to get enough sleep, do moderate physical exercise, eat healthy, maintain the right balance of vitamins and microelements, and avoid excessive stress. If one has chronic conditions or weaker immunity, it is reasonable to do electrotherapy to improve immune protection or speed up post-Covid rehabilitation.

By Olga Shuppo, Research Director at the GrandClinic network of immunorehabilitation and preventive medicine clinics

Previous ArticleNext Article