With several countries, including the UK and Israel, already in the midst of a third lockdown, a group of scientists is calling on governments to maintain strict control measures aimed at reducing the spread of covid-19. Their plea seeks to limit excess deaths as well as the spread of more virulent strains of the virus.
Saving the economy or limiting fatalities and the risk of overwhelming hospitals? That's the dilemma facing the governments of many countries worldwide, especially since new, more virulent strains of the novel coronavirus have recently emerged. Now, a group of scientists -- comprising experts in evolution, virology, infectious disease and genomics -- from the University of East Anglia (UEA), Earlham Institute and University of Minnesota, are calling on governments to maintain strict control measures, arguing that this is the only way of reducing the evolution and spread of new covid-19 variants.
In an editorial, published in the journal, Virulence, some of these scientists even consider that stronger action could be envisaged immediately to avoid suffering the consequences of emerging new strains, which may be more virulent, further down the line. While variants have already been identified in Brazil, the UK and South Africa, the experts don't exclude the possibility that others may evolve if measures are not maintained, or even strengthened.
Masks and social distancing are essential
The scientists highlight three necessary measures: continuing public health efforts to encourage vaccination; ensuring continued use of suitable personal protective equipment, such as face masks; and maintaining "safe social interactions" -- in other words, social distancing.
"Humanity is faced with a new reality. The faster we adapt, the better our long-term prospects. We must stop the evolution and spread of more virulent virus strains now. We, therefore, support public health policies with strict control measures in order to protect our public health system, our individual wellbeing, and our future," the scientists write.
In the editorial, the researchers also encourage vaccination, which they consider could "reduce the number of covid-19-related deaths, stem the spread of the transmissible strain of the virus, and reduce risk of the evolution of other, even more, virulent strains in the future."