Coronavirus | Omicron and Christmas variant: the cocktail that can make the party bitter again

The shadow of the sixth wave of the pandemic looms ever stronger over Spain, while the incidence of infections continues its unstoppable daily escalation, although still far from the figures of other European countries. The Ministry of Health has recommended limiting the number of participants in “public and social events”, especially during the celebrations of the Christmas holidays. Looming tough weeks from an epidemiological point of view, to which is added the uncertainty about what the real impact of the omicron variant will be.

Avoiding drawing parallels with previous situations is difficult, especially with that third wave that also coincided with the Christmas holidays and led Spain to record numbers of infections. However, now there is a decisive factor that makes everything different: the high degree of vaccination coverage of the Spanish population. “The situation this year is not comparable to that of last year. It is true that the incidence numbers are worrying, but it is also true that this does not immediately translate into an increase in hospital pressure and or in deaths because now we have the containment of immunity “, explains the virologist Isabel Sola, in statements provided by the Higher Center for Scientific Research (CSIC).

This researcher, who is co-director of the coronavirus laboratory of the National Center for Biotechnology (CNB-CSIC), thinks that we are not “in a situation as dark as a year ago”, although he asks citizens to be “careful” in the face of the next parties, because “the virus is circulating.” “If we get together with a lot of people and we don’t do it safely, we can transmit this virus to others who are more vulnerable,” he warns.

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A “much better” situation

Alfredo Corell, researcher and teacher at the University of Valladolid (UVA), He also considers that social gatherings “can be done this year in a much safer way than in the past”, because “the situation is much better, and we also have more tools.” However, he warns that “it is important to convey that in this type of event a vaccinated person should not be considered infallible, invincible“, since” although the proportion of contagion among those vaccinated is greatly reduced, we know that vaccinated people are not free to infect or to become infected “.

This immunologist points to a recipe that is easy to follow: keep the known precautionary measures indoors. “In other words, whenever I go in and out of a closed room, wash or sanitize my hands, wear the mask for as long as possible, except when eating and drinking. E, very important, and that is the part that is least we have done in Spain, the ventilation of the interior “, he reviews, to add a final requirement:” You can also do an antigen test on the day of the meeting, which are now better, and not only that, but it is also known that They detect omicrons. They are not one hundred percent infallible, since it only tests positive if you are infected and also with a sufficient amount of virus, but they act as a filter; like a good enough screening. “

The unknowns of omicron

Despite the protection granted by vaccines, the omicron unknown is another piece that adds to the Christmas table and that forces us to establish even greater caution, since it could even change the rules of the game. The also immunologist Matilde CaƱelles, Although he is “moderately optimistic” due to the information that is beginning to arrive about the real impact of this variant, he insists on taking extreme precautions, since “it would be a shame if because we are not careful in how we celebrate the holidays, we have another wave that does not We don’t even know how it will be, not even if it would be because of the new variant. “

“Knowing that there is a new variant, of which we still do not know what type of people it is going to affect and how, I think we should be more careful, at least until we have all the information about it,” he told RTVE .it is.

For this CSIC researcher, what to use this year during the Christmas holidays “is similar to what we already said last year: a little common sense“.” The vaccine has changed the situation. Obviously, people without pathologies up to 60 years of age, with vaccines, are perfectly protected. But we know that a part of older people, no matter how many vaccines they get, are not capable of mounting a good immune response “, he explains, and asks” to be careful with those older people, although the rest may be a little calmer “.

Same protection measures

The arrival of omicron in Europe keeps all countries in suspense, but the new wave that has hit the continent for weeks, and that has taken advantage of the vaccine gaps to shoot infections to shocking levels, is the result above all of the delta variant, so for practical purposes the security measures should hardly change. “With omicron nothing changes, except the need to maximize, if possible, precautions,” he tells Alfredo Corell.

“We do not know if the vaccines more or less support the immunity to omicron, which is one of the key questions. Nor if it is transmitted more or not, although it seems that there are indications that it can do more. And we do not know the symptoms that it will have. , but it seems that vaccinated people have at least a very slight clinic “, explains this immunologist, to emphasize that, despite all these questions,” the measures that we already know would be sufficient to control it. “

However, as anticipated Matilde CaƱelles, some of the most important unknowns about omicron will be cleared up shortly, when the first results of the studies that are being done to know to what extent vaccines lose efficacy against the mutated virus. “When they are known, we will be much more sure of the scenario that omicron may pose for the next few weeks. They are laboratory experiments that are carried out with sera from vaccinated people, who incubate them with the virus and see how the antibodies are capable or not to neutralize the virus. That is the crucial experiment, and we will have it in just a few days, “said this CSIC researcher.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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