Lukashenko asked of COVID-19 development at informal CIS summit
The President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, raised a question about forecasts of the COVID-19 situation development during his informal meeting with the CIS heads of state in St. Petersburg, BelTA reports
The President of Belarus addressed with this question to the Head of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-being – Chief State Sanitary Physician of the Russian Federation, Anna Popova, who made a report at the summit. “The main issue for us is the one regarding the forecast," he stressed.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that, since the first months of the pandemic, he has always demanded from his specialists to provide a forecast for a specific strain of coronavirus and, possibly, for the future. Contacts with Russian specialists were established on this issue but actually none of the forecasts has been fully proven true – in particular, regarding the date range. "Maybe you can tell us what will happen tomorrow? Delta – yesterday or today, and Omicron – tomorrow. What should we be guided by the day after?" the President wondered.
Ms. Popova replied that the question of how the situation will develop in the future is quite tricky. “Nobody in the world has an unambiguous answer to what will happen tomorrow. However, it is absolutely clear: if we fail to get vaccinated today and follow the existing sanitary measures, then the situation tomorrow will be much worse," she stressed. "Whatever strain comes, it's a strain of the same species, and therefore vaccine protection will work."
"I talked to the Head of the Gamaleya Institute. A study has been conducted there: Sputnik V definitely neutralises the new Omicron strain. He told me that only the clinic can exactly explain to what extent, but the level of neutralisation is very high," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in turn.
Aleksandr Lukashenko asked Ms. Popova whether new strains of coronavirus would follow after Omicron. “No virus stops in its development – so to expect Omicron to be the final point… It is impossible to speak of the next variant today but any virus lives only when it is changing,” she explained.
"Tell me, is Omicron less severe that Delta?” the Belarusian Head of State wondered.
As Ms. Popova stated, Russian specialists visited South Africa to study the Omicron strain. It turned out that the virus does not cause a severe course of the disease there – except for those who are not vaccinated or have concomitant diseases. However, the Chief State Sanitary Physician of Russia explained that this might be due to the fact that the average age of South Africans is up to 30 years, and young people are better able to deal with the disease.
According to her, the situation with Omicron in the UK is not entirely indicative either: the overall immunisation level exceeds 80 percent there.
"No other serious epidemiological observations have been published yet; we are following this very closely. However, the fact that it [Omicron] is much more contagious and that more people get immediately infected is very important: when a virus is so active, it is more likely to embrace more people for whom getting sick with any variant of this virus is a high risk. This can cause an overload [of the healthcare system],” Ms. Popova added.
In general, specialists cannot assert that the pandemic is on the decline. As the Chief State Sanitary Physician of Russia commented, experts are preparing to counteract the spread of this new strain and continue to protect people.
The CIS leaders then continued discussion of the epidemiological situation in the CIS and other topics related to development of integration processes behind closed doors.