The relaxation of protective measures against covid-19, such as the use of masks in closed places in an unrestricted way, is premature, reveals a bulletin from the Covid-19 Observatory, released today (11), in Rio de Janeiro, by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation ( Fiocruz). The researchers say that the coming weeks will be essential to understand the dynamics of transmission of the disease and that it is not yet possible to assess the effect of parties and trips during the carnival period.
“Flexible measures such as physical distancing (controlled by the use of the vaccine passport) or the abandonment of the use of masks in an unrestricted way contributes to a possible increase, and does not protect us from a new wave”, says the bulletin. “Currently, the ideal is to return to the pattern of the beginning of the pandemic, when we strongly recommended the use of masks, hand hygiene and avoiding agglomerations”, he highlights.
The text also states that the mitigation measures taken so far to control the pandemic occurred late, when the waves of contagion had already set in, and not proactively, to prevent them from forming.
“This means that the human cost to reach the current level was the unnecessary loss of 650 thousand people. That said, we reinforce that the premature relaxation of protective measures, as well as not investing in the population’s motivation about vaccination, means abandoning the story of so many lost lives”, the researchers highlight. “Therefore, it is important to ensure that the relaxation measures are adopted in a timely manner, at the risk of reversing the gains made in the slowdown of the pandemic”.
The transmissibility potential of the Ômicron variant, which has a much greater ability to escape antibodies produced by infections or two doses of vaccines, highlighted the importance of the booster dose for all adults, emphasizes Fiocruz.
“During the wave of Ômicron, the countries that have larger portions of the population with a booster dose showed a substantial reduction in hospitalizations in relation to confirmed cases of covid-19. In Brazil, the booster dose has already been applied in 31.2% The two-dose scheme is at a level of 73%. It is therefore essential to advance in vaccination coverage with three doses for the eligible population so far (adults over 18 years old)”, adds the bulletin.
The researchers also cite a recent study that suggests that the use of masks should be continued for two to ten weeks after the vaccination coverage target is reached, between 70% and 90%. With the emergence of the Ômicron variant and its greater ability to escape antibodies, the bulletin states that masks have become even more important.
“Vaccination alone is not enough to control the pandemic and prevent deaths and suffering, it is essential to maintain a set of combined measures until the appropriate level of vaccination coverage of the target population is reached”, adds the publication.
cases and deaths
The current scenario is a decline in the curves of cases and deaths after the peak of the Ômicron variant in Brazil. Fiocruz warns, however, that the reduction in incidence after the peak always occurs more slowly than the rise in the curve.
The bulletin also reports that data recorded between February 20 and March 5 show a drop of 48% in new cases and 33% in the moving average of deaths, compared to the previous fortnight. Even so, an average of 570 victims of covid-19 are still recorded in the country per day.
In addition to the drop in cases, Fiocruz shows that there is also a slight reduction in the positivity rate of RT-PCR tests for covid-19. Due to this, the expectation is that the coming weeks will maintain the reduction of the indicators that most concern the population and health services: mortality and hospitalization in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) by covid-19.
Intensive care unit beds for patients with the disease are outside the alert zone in all units of the federation, except Santa Catarina. This means that no other state has more than 60% of vacancies filled with critically ill patients. In Santa Catarina’s Unified Health System, the percentage is 79%.
The bulletin highlights that half of the deaths currently occur in people aged at least 78 years, which indicates their greater vulnerability to serious and fatal forms of covid-19. In view of this, the researchers defend the need to apply a fourth dose in this group, six months after the application of the booster dose.
In addition, Fiocruz points to a growth in the proportion of children with covid-19 in relation to the total number of infected. “The greater vulnerability of children, caused mainly by the low adherence of this group to vaccination, also compromises the group that is at the opposite end of the age pyramid”, say the researchers.
The Fiocruz bulletin found that 12 states have more than 80% of the population vaccinated with the first dose, 15 have more than 70% of the population with the second dose and, in 11 states, the third dose vaccination is above 30%.
Piauí is the state with the most advanced first-dose vaccination with 91%. In the second and third doses, the state of São Paulo has the highest percentages: 82% and 45%.
Translated to english by RJ983
From Brazil, by EBC News