Autumn without Covid-19 restrictions? Experts cautiously optimistic

It is tempting to put the pandemic behind us since all Covid-19 restrictions have lifted. But with autumn just around the corner, the last two years have seen surges in infections during the cold season.

However, if enough people get the fourth jab and there are no new variants, it won't be necessary to enforce Covid-19 restrictions again, according to simulations by the University of Antwerpen and the University of Hasselt, De Standaard reports.

Yet the pandemic isn't completely over and another wave is likely to hit in October and November. Simulated scenarios show that the wave will be manageable if no new variants emerge. Even without Covid-19 restrictions, the pressure on hospitals will be limited and there should be no need to postpone care due to an excessive number of Covid-19 patients.

Furthermore, fourth jabs this autumn are expected to reduce hospital admissions. Vaccinations for the over-65s will be key, as the vaccinations for the 18-50-year-olds hardly have any influence on hospitalisations.

"If we can keep it under control with this vaccination campaign, I don't see why we should take any more decisive measures."

Nonetheless, experts encourage younger people to get boosted: "A fourth shot also makes sense for younger people. I get my flu shot every year", said professor of biostatistics Niel Hens (UHasselt, UAntwerpen). "It's a no-brainer for me to do the same for Covid."

Research shows that the protection offered by vaccines decreases over time. And not everyone is as keen to keep getting jabbed. But based on the current simulations, even if half the people over 65 get a fourth jab, there will be a significant reduction in hospital admissions.

The autumn vaccine campaign is vital to preventing further restrictions, Hens insists: "If we can keep it under control with this vaccination campaign, I don't see why we should take any more decisive measures... It might be a good idea to consider wearing mouth masks again where vulnerable or large groups of people congregate inside."

Even if a new variant emerges, Hens believes that this would be unlikely to pose a major threat to public health: "We are moving more and more towards an endemic equilibrium, whereby the waves are getting smaller and smaller. Although it is too early to speak of an equilibrium."



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