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Is Covid finally over? What can be expected from the new variant?

In: Finance

The world has decided Covid is over for some reason and that is worrisome. Lifting all of the mandates, to avoid spread, so quickly is asking for trouble.

For most of the European region, Covid cases are on the rise again after plunging from their winter omicron peaks. Throughout the pandemic, U.S. Covid-19 trends have largely followed those in Europe and the U.K. by a few weeks.

With cases rising abroad, scientific and medical experts have been clear that in the next couple of months, there could be increasing cases of Covid-19.

The White House dropped its mask requirements. What’s happening in Europe could very well be a preview for the U.S., especially without masks.

There are three main factors driving the rise in international infections, all of which could apply to the U.S., experts said. The first is that Omicron’s dubious cousin, labeled BA. 2, is reportedly more transmissible than its predecessor, according to a pre-print study from Denmark. In Europe, it has quickly overtaken the initial omicron strain, BA.1, and now accounts for the majority of cases in the U.K., according to its Office of National Statistics.

This hasn’t happened in the U.S. just yet, though over the past few weeks BA.2 has been rising in prevalence in the U.S. It currently accounts for just under a quarter of overall cases, according to the Nowcast data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Data from the U.K. Health Security Agency show that the country’s rise in Covid cases happened concurrently with BA.2 accounting for more than half of overall infections. The new variant BA.2 appears to be no more severe than omicron, meaning that for most healthy, vaccinated people, symptoms are pretty mild. British researchers found that BA.2 does not seem to carry a higher risk of hospitalization than the original omicron mutation.

Decreasing Immunity is another factor driving the spike in infections abroad. In the U.S., booster rates are really low. Despite high vaccination rates across much of Europe, booster rates still hover around 50%. Protection from the initial two-dose vaccine series wears off after six months. Plus, immunity from prior infection also decreases over time.

The third factor is that people’s behavior has changed as mask mandates have lifted across the globe. This isn’t the sole cause of rising cases, but combined with decreasing immunity and a more transmissible variant, it certainly could contribute to a rise in cases. Irrespective of what variant is circulating, when those public health interventions go away, you should expect to see either a plateauing, or maybe a slight bump up in cases.

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