Delta coronavirus variant, what can be done to contain it

Before reaching the closures, many other actions and strategies that can be put in place: not only vaccines, but also a remodeling of green pass, quarantines and tracking

(photo: Ayelt Van Veen/Unsplash)

Although with still small absolute numbers, even in our country there delta variant of coronavirus is starting to be felt. Day after day, the daily bulletins provided by the Civil Protection and the Higher Institute of Health record an irrefutable turnaround in terms of positive and positive cases, not yet perceptible as regards hospital admissions, deaths and employment of women terapie intensive.

Although the pandemic has taught us all too well that it is difficult and makes little sense make predictions on the trend of the curves, based on what is happening in several other European countries it is considered very likely that the delta variant – today found in one case out of three – it will become prevalent also in Italy, probably surpassing i two thirds of new cases by the end of August. And again, according to the less optimistic projections, they will start to register again before the end of July a few thousand infections a day even in our country.

Of course, this is a situation in front of which we certainly cannot remain passive, so much so that in these days we are already starting to discuss about how to limit the spread of the variant (which is characterized by a higher contagiousness) before the circulation of the virus gets out of hand and you can not do anything but proceed with new unwanted restrictions e closures. But what actions can be taken in practice? We have collected some of the most talked about ideas here.

Vaccinating is more important than ever

Even if we know that no vaccine is able to protect 100%, let alone from contagion, the data that are accumulating in recent weeks even in Italy are eloquent: the vaccination cuts down drastically the likelihood of developing severe forms of Covid-19, that is, those that lead to hospitalization or that lead to death. And this is true in general for all variants (at most with a few percent variation), delta included.

Just think that in July, if you look at the over 80 group, that small 8% made up of unvaccinated and people who have not yet completed the double administration corresponds to the 35% of registered cases, 59% of hospital admissions, 78% of intensive care employment and al 70% of deaths. However, confirming once again that the decline in the effectiveness of vaccines attributable to the variants concerns infections (the average coverage is still estimated at 80% to date) and not serious cases.

For this reason the vaccination campaign it has become all the more so a race against time: if you imagined having the months of July, August and September to conclude the first round of administrations, the arrival of the delta variant requires us to further tighten the times, because theinversion in the contagion curves waiting for the end of summer is already happening. Of course, the coverage of the most part is of course priority fragile of the population, starting from those two and a half million (approximately) over 60 still uncovered, without forgetting the 200mila school operators and other strategic professional categories. And then including all the continuation of the vaccination action, among any third doses, vaccine reformulations and so on.

Rethinking the parameters, in every sense

In the light of new epidemiological data and new scientific evidence, a request has been raised from several voices to reshape part of the criteria adopted so far, in some cases making them more permissive and in others by operating a “crackdown”. In the latter category, the idea of ​​modifying the rules to obtain the green pass italiano: on the one hand, postpone the release a two weeks after the second dose instead of two weeks after the first (since with a single dose the coverage is only partial), and on the other hand increase the number of activities e places for which the green pass is necessary. Not only stadiums, concerts, banquets and events, therefore, but potentially also other activities in which they tend to be created gatherings. One of the most radical hypotheses is that of the green pass to go to the ristorante, but at the moment the measure is considered impractical given that the number of unvaccinated people is still 24 million, too large to be manageable.

On the side of the easing of the measures, however, one of the proposals in the field is to change the criteria for the passage of the regions from one color to another. In particular, given the effect of vaccines to contain severe forms much more effectively than the infections themselves, one possible direction is to reduce the importance of the number of registered cases (to date the threshold is 50 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants for the yellow zone), increasing in contrast to that of hospitalizations, hospitalizations e deaths. In short, in this way a region with many vaccinated people would be favored, since a lower number of serious cases would be expected compared to the total cases recorded.

At the same time, however, various media have also reported the proposal to introduce an additional constraint: in order to remain in the white zone, each region should continue to carry out a minimum number of tampons, equal to 150 per week per 100 thousand inhabitants, if possible of a molecular type. There was no talk of a abandonment of the Rt index, which would remain one of the key factors albeit with a minor importance in the parameter hierarchy. And in parallel what is hoped for is an improvement of tracking, in order to identify early i outbreaks, especially if the delta variant.

All this could, at least in theory, lead to further rationalization of the rules, in order to improve coexistence with the virus and to introduce restrictions only where and when they are actually necessary and useful. If, on the other hand, the rules were not to be changed, at least four regions (Abruzzo, Campania, Marche and Sicily) would already seem to have a trend such as to pass into yellow zone within a few weeks, with the summer season still largely underway, provided that the curves proceed without further changes in trend.

The right means of masks and discos

If from the point of view of containing the infection there is no doubt that the use of mask is one of the key strategies, the discussion remains open about the occasions when it can be expected to do without it. In this case, however, it would seem that no changes are expected, at least for the summer months: no obligation outdoors except for gatherings and an obligation more than ever confirmed in closed places.

However, what seems to be difficult to apply, in practice, is therational use of masks outdoors. In many cases the rule of wearing a mask when you are in a condition of overcrowding is ignored. It happens in the places of nightlife, it happened for the celebrations after the victory at the European Championships of the national team and it happens regularly in the busiest streets of cities. In this case, in addition to relying on the collective common sense, the strategy that could be adopted is that ofstiffening of controls, with law enforcement officers positioned in the places with the highest probability of gathering to verify that the obligation to wear the mask as it is today is really respected. And the same should also apply to many others anti-contagion measures, from spacing in supermarkets to hand hygiene, from temperature control to respecting the minimum distance when you get in line, trusting that the general summer relaxation does not turn into a total loss of necessary attention.

However, this is a difficult situation to calibrate, as the case of discos. For the moment, its reopening has been announced, although the date has not yet been set, but the increase in cases could change your mind again. At the same time, however, the prolongation of time is increasing the number of “abusive” or “masked” discos, so much so that the question is being asked whether it is better officially open in a more regulated way or whether to continue to keep closed, favoring the multiplication of non-compliant realities.

Travel abroad with more attention

The delta variant has already been in Italy for some time and in any case it will be impossible in the future to prevent the arrival and spread of specific variants. However, there is no doubt that from those countries (or regions) where the viral circulation is taller either more likely return with the virus in the body, as happened in the 2020 summer season.

For this reason, a specific measure of quarantine for those returning to Italy from countries where the delta variant is more widespread. In addition to UK – for which the measure is already in force – the quarantine could be foreseen starting from Spain e Portugal, and it should be long 5 days. However, this measure is insufficient to stem the spread, but which could allow us to arrive at the end of the summer with an overall situation still well under control, so as to allow the resumption of activitiesschool, sports and commercial) in the most normal way possible.

Categories:   Science