What next in summer and fall? An expert explains what is important.

Mr. Nagel, what depends on how the Corona situation develops in Germany?

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Primarily from the development of the coronavirus. There are still a lot of infections around the world, so there are enough chances that the virus will develop further. Currently, virus variants appear which, above all, are easier to transmit. However, it will depend not only on transmissibility, but also on the severity of the disease – that is, whether more people become seriously ill and need to be treated in hospital if they become infected. Finally, immunity at the population level plays a role. In other words, how well people who have recovered or who have been vaccinated are protected from infection. I think we should expect this to be the case only to a limited extent.

Kai Nagel is a professor of transportation system planning at the Technical University of Berlin and has been modeling the spread of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

This means that they expect more infections.

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ultimate. So far, everything indicates that there will be another wave of infection. If we’re lucky, this wave won’t come until fall. If we are unlucky, it will come in summer. The path is likely to be similar to that of an omicron wave. This means that there will be many infected people who will have to self-isolate and therefore a large number of sick leave.

What do you count on when the infection wave begins?

From the time a new virus variant prevails in the community. With BA.4 and BA.5, two variants have already been discovered in Germany that appear to be more transferable. The good news is that your holdings don’t grow much; To date, BA.4 and BA.5 account for less than 2% of positive corona samples. But this may look different in a couple of weeks.

I designed three scenarios for the upcoming Corona fall. Scenario one: it stays with Omicron or a very similar variant occurs. what does that mean?

It concerns variants of viruses in which the existing immunity remains largely effective. So in fact we will only see a new wave of infection in the fall or winter, which will be similar to the one that happened this spring.

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Scenario Two: The emergence of a fluctuating and pathogenic immune variant just like Omicron.

In this case, there will likely be more sick leave related to corona than to the omicron wave. At the same time, the burden on hospitals, especially intensive care units, will remain under control.

We should expect that limitations can make sense again.

And what would happen – the third scenario – if an immune volatile virus type emerged with a disease risk higher than that of an omicron?

In this scenario, incidents higher than omicron and significantly higher load on ICUs could coincide. Even an overburden of the health care system cannot be ruled out if countermeasures are not taken.

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Are we talking about closing again?

I would avoid this term because it allows for many different interpretations. However, we should expect the limitations to make sense again.

Which of the three scenarios do you think is the most likely?

We don’t know how the virus will evolve further. After all, the third scenario is not the most likely, because two random developments – transmissibility and disease severity – should fall in the “wrong” direction for us. But it is one we must prepare for as a society.

Shouldn’t the situation of corona improve with vaccinations and increase the immunity of the population? We may have another turbulent fall.

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We must not forget: without the immunity of the population that has been formed so far, the situation would have been much worse. Immunity greatly reduces the risk of infection and serious illness. But with Omicron being the dominant viral variant and immune volatile, the current population’s immunity is not equal to what it used to be. At least we’re not so well protected that we definitely don’t need countermeasures anymore. Example: According to our model, in order to prevent the health care system from being overloaded without countermeasures in Scenario 3, an effective Omicron vaccine and a vaccination rate of 100 percent would be needed for all people five years of age and older. This is a utopia.

We should not close our eyes and think: it’s over now, it’s the third year with Corona, and there is no need for countermeasures anymore.

To what extent can the future development of the epidemic be relied upon at the present time? After all, there are a large number of unreported cases of corona, and it is not yet clear how well vaccinated people will be protected and recovered from upcoming variants or when an Omikron-adapted vaccine will come. This has an effect on the infection process.

In fact, our model has become significantly more complex since the beginning of the epidemic. Each series of vaccines and infections leads to different immunity to different virus variants. Of course we don’t know how well this immunity will help against future virus variants, we can only estimate them within reasonable ranges and calculate different scenarios based on that.

What should the lessons be from your presentation?

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We must prepare for all eventualities so that we can respond quickly. And we must watch closely the evolution of the number of cases: with all the previous virus variants, we saw that their proportion was very small at first, but increased rapidly from week to week. This means that there was always a certain amount of lead time. Therefore, good monitoring systems, more sequencing, and more capabilities in laboratories are needed to determine this lead time and then respond to the infection situation with appropriate measures. We should not close our eyes and think: it’s over now, it’s the third year with Corona, and there is no need for countermeasures anymore.

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