How big is the risk of infection now? How do I protect myself?

The coronavirus has been defining everyday life for more than two years. There are rules set by politics that we are fairly accustomed to: wearing a mask on buses and trains, at the doctor’s office, at school lessons is mandatory. Getting tested before going to the office, if you haven’t been vaccinated, is the same. The home office has become the norm. 3G, 2G, 2Gplus – everyone today knows what that means. But it is clear that protection from infection with the virus will become an increasingly private matter.

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Read more after the announcement

March 20 was originally designated as Freedom Day. Logic: An incredible number of people have Omicron, but it becomes less severe than delta disease. However, the virus is still not under control at the moment. So federal states have delayed repealing most of the rules until the beginning of April.

Corona measures should be reduced – but the risk of infection remains high

However: in the spring, according to the plan, most of the procedures will have to be canceled. Politicians face a dilemma: because the virus is still very likely present in April. Modeling by several research teams shows that the sixth wave is developing. There are two reasons why an increased number of cases should be expected rather than a relaxed spring: the BA.2 subline, which is increasingly taking over the infection process, is more transmissible than the previous Omicron variant. At the same time, contact-limiting measures have already been scaled back.

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Read more after the announcement

So it is likely that the number of infections will continue to rise in the coming weeks. And whether or not the rules approved by the federal and state governments apply: For everyone, this means that the risk of infection in everyday life remains very high.

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Therefore, experts advise, one has to continue to act preventively so that infection becomes less likely. The RKI asserts that “the further course of the epidemic depends largely on how behavior changes in the population and the extent to which potential infection-related contacts increase.”

“It’s not as if there is a pandemic from day to day – or not,” said British immunologist Peter Openshaw, who knows the effects of “Freedom Day” in Great Britain. The aura expert from Imperial College London advises: “Normalism shouldn’t mean eliminating all preventative measures that we know work.”

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Read more after the announcement

Corona infection: what protects in everyday life?

But how should you act in concrete terms when the rules are being relaxed more and more – and you want to prevent infection yourself? Researchers have confirmed for months that the virus no longer goes away.

The good thing is: From a purely scientific point of view, two years after the epidemic, it is known enough what the preventive protection against corona infection is and where the infection is particularly likely. Ten basic rules, according to the RKI, that must be observed by vaccinated, boosted, recovered and people without immune protection:

  • Communication should be minimized as much as possible. The larger the event, the more people gather, the more likely the virus will spread among the guests.
  • If contacts cannot be avoided, they should be limited to a narrow circle of people who remain as still as possible. This applies in the office as well as in the circle of friends or at school.
  • If people meet inside, the risk of infection is significantly higher than outside. Therefore, medical masks must be worn constantly to protect against infectious aerosols in the air. You should also stay away as much as possible from others because the possibility of exposure to virus particles increases dramatically within about two meters of an infected person.
  • Anyone who does a quick test before meeting others reduces the risk of inadvertently transmitting the infection to someone. However, there is still a residual risk of contracting the coronavirus despite the negative outcome. Contact with unvaccinated people is more likely to transmit it than vaccinated people. However, the primary immunized and those who are boosted can also become infected and pass the virus on to others – especially with the Omicron variant.
  • Indoor rooms should be regularly and thoroughly ventilated before, during and after many people’s stays. This allows infectious particles to escape.
  • Large events, dancing and other celebrations in the public and private sectors should be canceled or avoided. The nebulizer is released when breathing and talking, but more so when shouting and singing, and when coughing and sneezing, it produces larger particles as well. And if many people meet, many of them are likely to get infected.
  • Before contacting people who are particularly at risk, for example in a nursing home or retirement, you should get a payment and also take a test before the meeting.
  • Anyone with symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat or cough should stay home, isolate themselves from others and get tested from their family doctor or at a testing center to check if they have the coronavirus. This applies regardless of vaccination status.
  • Refrain from travel: Experiments with other virus variants such as Alpha and Delta have shown that restricting mobility and communications elsewhere to stop the spread of new virus variants can be a reasonable measure. The virus cannot be stopped completely, but time can be won.
  • Have you already installed the Corona Warning app on your cell phone? You will be notified of this if you are unknowingly close to an infected person.

Vaccination does not always protect against infection – but it does protect against disease and death

In addition to preventive behavior in everyday life – using masks, distance, tests and fewer contacts – vaccination and reinforcement are still highly recommended. It is now clear that currently available vaccines do not prevent infection with the Coronavirus in many cases. But when that happens, there is a good chance that you will be protected from the worst: disease and death. About 58 percent of the population is currently boosted, and about 76 percent has their primary immunization (as of March 16). So there are still vaccination gaps, especially since good immune protection against omicron can only be expected through booster vaccination.

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Read more after the announcement

Further waves of infection are expected in the fall and winter. The world will have to learn how to deal with the coronavirus in the long run. At the moment, no one can really predict how the Corona crisis will develop in the coming months and years.

Four conceivable scenarios

The researchers talk about different conceivable scenarios. At best, only weak corona waves with fewer critically ill people than those in Delta and Omicron. However, waves of infection may also appear, which are sometimes more omicron-like, and sometimes more delta-like. And a worrying variant can reappear suddenly, affecting a particularly large number of people and making them particularly ill. Or those that bypass immune protection especially strongly. The researchers stress that because the future is uncertain, careful behavior in everyday life combined with vaccination remains the best protection against the possibilities.

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