Living with the virus, a shift in paradigm

COVID-19 continues to circulate, with more intensity in recent weeks, complicit with large-scale travel due to tourism, but handling the problem with the same approach as in 2020 would be both wrong and detrimental
© CdT/Chiara Zocchetti
Paride Pelli
15.07.2022 07:51

After three months of apparent calm, COVID-19-related outbreaks have been on the rise in Switzerland, as they have in much of Europe, since early June. By the end of August, we are predicted to have a spike, and in recent hours the WHO has urged governments to assess a return to restrictions, reminding them how the number of deaths is still "unacceptably high." Ticino, sadly, is no exception: the seven victims in the last three days are worrying. This resurgence is caused by the two sub-variants of Omicron - BA.4 and BA.5 - deemed by experts to be more contagious, but not necessarily more dangerous. Precisely therein lies the point: today, after two years in which we have been confronted with human dramas and severe restrictions on individual freedoms but also with significant scientific advances in our knowledge of the virus, to halt at the mere figure of the number of infections risks being misleading and counter-productive. Our relationship with COVID-19 has altered many times over time, and now, building on past experience and still being vigilant, we can afford to calibrate it even further, with the goal of downplaying the risks and minimizing, if not averting altogether, the WHO suggested restrictions. In other words, to live as normal a life as possible. The primary discriminator, therefore, must become exclusively that of admissions, as was already the case in the last period of the pandemic emergency, when the various countries - Switzerland included - took the decision to modulate the restrictive interventions on the basis of the occupancy rate of intensive care units. At present, from this point of view, the situation can be considered under control more or less everywhere, with the exception of Germany, where there are some worrying signs.

But on a general level the figure remains reassuring, and it confirms the effectiveness of the vaccine against the severe course of the disease. In light of all this, a paradigm shift in the approach to the pandemic is called for. If not, the risk would be to fall back into the vortex of fear and horror that has gripped us for two long years. It is well established that COVID continues, unfortunately, to die - albeit to a significantly lesser extent than in the past - but that the virus has become endemic is irrefutable. The bottom line: the virus continues to circulate, in recent weeks with greater intensity, aided and abetted by large-scale travel due to tourism, but managing the problem with the same approach as in 2020 would be wrong and detrimental, to the social as well as the economic fabric.

It is right to protect at-risk facilities as well as the most fragile segments of the population, it is right to protect oneself with the ever-useful mask where the danger of infection increases-for example, on means of transportation, particularly airplanes, or where there are gatherings, and to undergo tests in case of symptoms-but the epidemic must be tackled precisely with different solutions from those of the past: without panic and hysteria, but - on the contrary - with rationality, pragmatism and, above all, common sense, keeping in mind the basic hygiene measures that remain indispensable. The data do not lie, it has been said many times, even in the darkest period of the pandemic: today's data indicate that the vast majorities of those who test positive-perhaps after a test done simply out of scruples-have a course without particular complications. COVID is not gone but the way we live with it must change. There is no reason to return to the society of fear, detachment and distrust. Neither today nor, we hope, tomorrow.