Are we really still surprised?

Virologist Christian Drosten surprises with the thesis: quarantine only five days

Masks, immunity, quarantine: Just back from the summer break, the virologist Christian Drosten provides information on current corona issues - and makes recommendations for the coming months.

The award-winning NDR podcast "Coronavirus Update" with Christian Drosten is back from the summer break. In an XXL edition, the Berlin virologist brings the audience up to date on masks and aerosols, immunity and cluster contact diaries. The summer was "very busy," says Drosten. Nevertheless, there were "no surprises" and "not a single really new finding" with regard to the corona virus. Nevertheless, the corona expert started the new podcast season with new explanations and suggestions and devoted himself to much-discussed corona topics.

In the new episode, the researcher makes it clear that it is currently "very difficult to assess" up to which limit the number of new corona infections can still be controlled and when it will begin to spread on a massive scale. The basis is clusters in the population - such as families or shared apartments - that are loosely connected to one another. By connecting clusters across the country, a transmission network is created. However, there are many influencing factors such as the mean size of the clusters, the mobility of the population and the extent of social contacts. They influenced events in very different ways from country to country. "And that's why I can't say now: Here's the threshold."

Increasing case numbers since the end of June

It is clear, however, that the situation could get out of control. "There is the possibility that we are fooling ourselves when we say: yes, this is going very well at the moment, then let's go on as before." With more and more undiscovered clusters - because people do not notice or keep silent about their infection - there could be a percolation effect. The numbers then rose suddenly without any apparent reason. "I have a feeling this is what we are seeing in France right now."

The virologist emphasized that the increase in the number of cases in Germany since the end of July was not only due to the increase in tests. A lot of tests had already been carried out in May and June when the number of infections was very low, explained the expert from the Berlin Charité in a matter-of-fact and calm manner. "The current numbers are real."

Drosten recommends contact diaries

However, they did not reflect the real frequency of infection in the population either; it was underestimated for various reasons. On the one hand, you simply cannot test all people, so Drosten. On the other hand, young people who only had harmless, mild infections were becoming increasingly infected. They would possibly hide their infections and not be included in the statistics. "If I've been to an illegal techno party, then I have even more of a tendency to hide my symptoms and not allow myself to be diagnosed."

In order to make it easier to follow up corona infections, Drosten called on people to keep contact diaries. Not everyone is ready to use the Corona app. However, it makes sense to make a note of when you were with several people in a group in the evening, according to the virologist. This could later facilitate the cooperation with the health authorities. He himself also keeps such a diary. In order to get through the autumn well, the "maximum cooperation of the majority of the population is necessary," said Drosten.

Christian Drosten has been a professor at the Charité in Berlin since 2017. (Source: Michael Kappeler / dpa)

"Everyone will never take part"

"Not everyone has to take part, everyone will never take part. Some do not understand this well enough, others are in fundamental opposition. Let us forget that, not everyone has to take part, but a large part. Even if half take part, a lot is gained." says the researcher. He again promoted the wearing of everyday masks. Despite some weaknesses, they make a significant contribution to protection against corona infection. At least in part, they also reduced the risk of contamination from aerosols.

In order to maintain acceptance of the measures in society, Drosten spoke out in favor of shortening the quarantine period. People suspected of having an infection should only have to isolate themselves for five days instead of 14. With this proposal, he went "to the pain limit of epidemiology," explained Drosten. "That is, let's say, a steep thesis that one says that after five days the infectivity is actually over," said the corona expert.

Immunity is likely to last for current pandemic

But the consideration is: "What can you do in reality so that you do not have a de facto lockdown? It is of no use if you have all kinds of school classes, all kinds of workplaces under quarantine for weeks." Drosten also suggested that the five days should not be "wasted" on tests, but rather only after the end of the test to test whether those affected were infected and are still infectious.

On the subject of immunity, the virologist said that people who have survived Covid-19 disease are protected from recurring the disease. At least for the period of the current pandemic, the immunity is likely to last, said Drosten. In exceptional cases, renewed contact with the virus could lead to a new, superficial infection, but this should not result in severe pneumonia. Due to the lower virus concentration in such cases, chains of infection should no longer develop.

Criticism of "attention-seeking"

Drosten described the cases of renewed infections reported in the past few days as "rarities". This is about "attention-grabbers", according to the Corona expert. These cases would probably be epidemiologically insignificant in terms of spread and danger. Scientists would report such cases in communications, the media would pick up on them and derive numerous questions from them, for example with regard to immunity or the effectiveness of vaccines. "That does not describe the medical reality and the normal case."

The "coronavirus update", which has been available since the end of February, went into the summer break in June. The successful podcast was awarded the Grimme Online Award and the Federal Press Conference Prize. It had more than 60 million views. Since September 1, Christian Drosten has been alternating weekly with the Frankfurt virologist Sandra Ciesek on the science program.

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  • Subjects:
  • News,
  • Panorama,
  • Coronavirus,
  • Viral infection,
  • Christian Drosten,
  • Podcast,
  • Corona app,
  • Infection,
  • Quarantine,
  • Aerosols,
  • Pandemic,
  • Germany,
  • Immunity,
  • Covid-19