The arrival of a new variant of COVID-19 has had the effect of a cold shower for countless Quebecers, who dream of a return to a normal life. After almost two years of pandemic, the authorities repeat that it is necessary to “live with the virus”, and according to the experts consulted by The newspaper, it also means to take your illness patiently and “to learn to avoid it”.
The epidemiologist at the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ) Gaston De Serres explains that during a first infection, the COVID-19 virus can be very severe. But he adds that the risk of complications is much lower during reinfection. The same situation occurs with winter viruses that our body gets used to dealing with as an adult, he illustrates.
On the other hand, the risks of the “long COVID” should not be minimized, he continues.
The director of the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM), André Veillette, also points out that drugs will eventually be added to the arsenal against the virus.
“Vaccines are important for maintaining protection,” he says, adding that a third dose is inevitable.
The fight against the coronavirus could also take the form of an annual booster dose.
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“The mask, we will keep it in our bags for a long time […]. It is the means of protection that we will keep with us the longest, ”emphasizes epidemiologist Nimâ Machouf.
Without necessarily wearing it constantly, she believes that it will remain a tool when a person finds themselves in a place that they believe is poorly ventilated or too busy.
Because the virus is transmitted mainly in the air, she recalls, and not on soiled surfaces, for example.
“Two years ago, we looked at people with masks askew. But today, they are people perceived as responsible and who want to protect those around them. It would not surprise me that it remains in the mores, adds Roxane Borgès Da Silva, of the School of public health of the University of Montreal.
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“Traveling now means exposing yourself to more risks. Risks for her health, but also financial, ”argues Ms. Borgès Da Silva.
She cites the example of the need to lengthen — a two-week stay in case of infection to isolate oneself, hospital costs, absences from work.
The appearance of the Omicron variant has suddenly resulted in the closure of certain borders, a situation which may recur.
“We will not have collective immunity as long as 80% of the world [entier] will not be vaccinated, ”recalls Dr. Machouf.
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For Dr. Nimâ Machouf, even if the rapid test is a good way to detect COVID-19, it is still too expensive here to be deployed on a large scale. She believes that at around $ 10 a test, no event will add it to her kit.
The Quebec government has announced that they will now be available in schools. A good idea, believes Dr. Machouf, who points out that millions of these tests are lying dormant and that it is better to take them before they expire.
For André Veillette, if the selling price comes down as in Europe, rapid tests could become more widespread.
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For two years, COVID-19 has appeared in waves and researcher André Veillette believes that it will be necessary to monitor them to dictate the behaviors to be adopted.
When the virus is poorly circulating, people could let it go, for example. And when the virus returns, the vaccine passport could resume service.
It will therefore be necessary for public health authorities to continue to carry out epidemiological surveillance, whether through tests or in wastewater to detect the presence of the virus.
“Living with the virus means learning to avoid it, but if you ever meet it, to be as protected as possible”, he mentions, whether by wearing the mask or by being vaccinated. , notably.