NHS Grampian experts are warning of an “inevitable” third wave of coronavirus this summer – just days before desperate business owners are allowed to reopen after months of lockdown.
Environmental health and trading standards officers, police, and the NHS spoke at a council online seminar for the Aberdeen hospitality trade this morning, as they prepare to open for the first time since December.
And while optimism was apparent ahead of the restrictions lifting, there was a stark warning and a plea for bosses to do all they could to delay an expected resurgence of the virus.
‘This pandemic is by no means over’ – NHS Grampian expert predicts ‘inevitable’ third wave
NHS Grampian‘s Jenni Strachan said there was “no doubt” a third wave will hit as the country loosens the rules – not limited to pubs, restaurants and cafes; but also gyms, sports facilities, museums, spas, and many other businesses allowed to open their doors on Monday too.
And she outlined the desperate race against the infection rate to have as many people vaccinated as possible before cases start to spike.
She said: “Not to be the bearer of bad news but, from a public health perspective, this pandemic is by no means over.
“I know the perception out there is that maybe we are out of the woods, things are OK and we can all get back to normal and get over all of this – but sadly, that is not quite the case.
“There is no doubt a third wave is predicted, when exactly it will happen is hard to say for sure as it will really depend on how we go in the next few weeks in terms of the lifting of restrictions.
“It is slightly inevitable as we still do have pockets of the population who will not have had natural infection therefore they are vulnerable to getting Covid and we do still have quite a significant proportion of the population who are not vaccinated.
“With the lifting of lockdown and restrictions, even with best intentions and all the good control measures being followed, it is inevitable we will see spread of Covid. We have seen it when the schools reopened, we see it each time there is a reopening of services or settings.”
The good news: ‘inevitable’ third wave will be over ‘fairly quickly’ and most vulnerable have been vaccinated
The better news, the public health nursing specialist said, was that the most vulnerable have now received their jab and this third wave would likely be “quite sharp and over fairly quickly” compared to previous outbreaks.
“But it will come on quickly,” she warned.
“So the longer we can push it back, the more people we can vaccinate and the better the health outcomes.
“And the only way we can push it back is by following the control measures.
“This latest variant circulating is very infectious so although we might have relatively low numbers of infection, it doesn’t take a lot for that to quite quickly to turn into an outbreak.
“We are seeing a number of fully and partially vaccinated people have the idea it gives complete immunity and that they almost have super powers now when it comes to Covid-19.
“Vaccination is an absolutely crucial part of public health control measures and is of huge benefit, attenuating the virus, giving milder symptoms and it should help clinical outcomes greatly – but having it doesn’t mean you can’t still catch Covid-19 or pass it on to someone else.
“It is really important people don’t think that because they are vaccinated they don’t need to follow all the control measures.”
Europe already back under lockdown due to earlier third wave
A third wave swept through continental Europe earlier this month, forcing many countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain to enforce strict lockdown rules again.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who previously predicted the European third wave would “wash up on our shores”, yesterday announced the formation of a new government taskforce looking at new antivirals.
He said: “This means for example that if you test positive for the virus that there might be a tablet you could take at home to stop the virus in its tracks and significantly reduce the chance of infection turning into more serious disease.”
In an effort to avoid the kind of international disputes that have marked the deployment of vaccines, the taskforce will also look at opportunities to make the antiviral drugs in the UK.
Mr Johnson said he hoped the move, as well as autumn Covid booster jabs, would help give “ever greater confidence to the people of this country that we continue on our path towards freedom”.