Forecast: Fourth wave is “highly likely” to come

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The Covid-19 forecasting consortium expects a fourth wave of CoV. Due to the “increased transmissibility” of the delta variant, there will be one “with a high probability,” it said yesterday in a policy brief commissioned by the Ministry of Health. However, the timing of this wave and its magnitude are unclear.

Vaccination coverage needs “top priority”
Accordingly, maximizing vaccination coverage (full immunization) needs to be a “top priority.” The consortium emphasized that available data (primarily from the United Kingdom) indicate that “the delta variant is significantly more transmissible than the previously dominant alpha variant (B.1.1.7).”

Raw report mentions mask requirement
The raw report, which is now also available to the APA, also recommends reintroducing mandatory masking, preferably with FFP2 standard, should the number of cases increase. A risk-adjusted 7-day incidence of 253 is mentioned as a threshold value – which is currently far from being reached. The last time such a high value was reached was at the end of March.

With increasing hospitalizations in normal wards, the reintroduction of “social distancing” is also advised. If the number of Covid 19 patients in intensive care units continues to rise, the reintroduction of “lockdown light” is also being considered, although this is described as a “low probability scenario”.

Variant likely to determine case incidence in Austria
“Variant surveillance data (…) suggest that the delta variant already dominates case occurrence in Austria as well,” the consortium wrote. “For week (calendar week, note) 25, the delta variant already accounted for about 50 percent of the infection incidence, and for more than 60 percent in week 26.”

Experts expect “similar prevalences” to those in the United Kingdom as early as July. However, “A more precise estimate of the rate of spread of the delta variant is subject to great uncertainty due to the current low case incidence,” the consortium said.

“System-critical” occupancy in hospitals “unlikely”
“Despite the current low incidence, a rapid increase of the delta variant with replacement of the currently dominant alpha variant (…) is likely in Austria. However, a system-critical coating in hospitals is unlikely in the summer of 2021,” the consortium predicts. In the medium term, however, it remains to be seen whether mitigating or spread-driving factors will prevail.

The consortium’s best-case scenario assumes a full immunization rate of 80 percent, which would be achieved at about 80 percent of the June 2021 immunization pace. Here, “a system-threatening epidemic wave is highly unlikely by the end of September,” it said.

Vaccination pace critical
If the pace is maintained, but only a 60 percent full immunization rate is achieved, system-critical ICU utilization would continue to be highly unlikely. The key appears to be the pace of immunization. At 60 percent full immunization and 60 percent of the June 2021 immunization pace, system-critical ICU utilization could also occur. However, experts believe this scenario is unlikely.

“Increasing vaccination coverage and vaccination readiness in all population groups is therefore essential,” they said. In addition, the experts recommended maintaining “measures that impose only minor restrictions on the population but contribute to dampening the increase in the number of cases.” “This applies in particular to the maintenance of a low-threshold and widespread testing offer primarily with PCR testing methods.”

  • source: ORF.at/agencies/picture: pixabay.com

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