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COVID has slipped off campaign menu

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New COVID infections and hospitalisations have steadily increased this past month, with only 20% of those eligible getting jabbed with the updated vaccine for the ΒΑ.1, ΒΑ.4 and ΒΑ.5 subvariants of Omicron.

Vaccine immunity only lasts about 5 to 6 months, with the low uptake suggesting that complacency has kicked in once again.

Experts say a vaccine alone, including a fourth or a second booster, is not enough to protect the general public from the spread of the disease.

It had killed 1,200 people since March 2020, when the pandemic arrived in Cyprus.

Virologist Petros Karayiannis told CyBC radio that the ideal immunity would be the hybrid form of a combination of a full vaccine programme and a potential infection to build up natural immunity.

However, this is not to say that we should all stand next to a COVID-19 patient, like in the old days when grandparents pushed children to be in contact with others their age to catch chicken pox from a very young age, get infected and build immunity.

From a small increase of 5 to 10, the average daily infection rate has popped up by 100 this past week, while hospitalisations, albeit only at 70, are fast approaching the first benchmark of 100 patients.

The 200-level is when health officials start worrying about increased pressure for hospital beds.

The fifth vaccine, or booster, has been available since October 6, a month ago, with the eligibility age dropping from 60-plus to the current 30-plus.

As winter approaches, the public will be called to enforce the wash-distance-mask triangle, while a booster shot should lower the prospect of infection.

For the same reason, many opt to get their flu shots first, wait a couple of weeks and then get their coronavirus booster.

Yet those who should be leading by example, such as the wannabe presidential candidates, who are well over 30, have yet to come forth with a clear message encouraging vaccinations, or if they disagree, to clearly say why they are against it.

The only good news is that the latest Omicron sub-variant BQ1 is not more aggressive than previous strains.

Based on modelling estimates, the ECDC expects that by mid-November to the beginning of December, more than 50% of COVID infections will be of the new, less-virulent sub-variant.

And by the beginning of 2023, they could account for more than 80% of cases.

The continued emergence of new COVID variants indicates that the virus is rapidly evolving.

If not vaccinations, the public, and the nation’s leadership, should consider measures to contain its spread, but within reason, as seen from the past year’s experience.

The coronavirus is still with us, and we must learn to live with it, not ignore it.

Otherwise, all the hard work in reviving the economy and giving the kiss of life to our essential tourism industry will be lost.