Specialist in lung diseases, Bergen
Specialist in lung diseases, Bergen
Today’s strategy is exhausting and detrimental to large sections of society. Here are seven suggestions on what we should do next.
This is a debate post. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.
Prominent covid-19 researchers say that we are all infected, and probably several times. In the long run, we hope that the population will have enough immunity that the viral disease will be like a cold or mild flu to most people.
But how long will it take? With the current rate of infection (5000-10,000 infected daily), it will take a long time before the population achieves such immunity.
The contact-reducing measures are now justified on the grounds that they will avoid congestion in the health care system if too many people become ill at the same time. The majority of the seriously ill are now unvaccinated, in addition to the fact that some vulnerable groups have a poor vaccine effect.
Learned a lot
With highly specialized and sometimes resource-intensive treatment, survival is nevertheless relatively good, and much has been learned about the treatment of covid-19 patients these two years.
However, most inpatients do not require intensive care, but often oxygen therapy or non-invasive breathing support. This can be given in other specialized departments in the hospitals, with less use of resources.
The omicron variant certainly seems to cause milder disease. The biggest unknown factor is the total number of admissions. That is, how many beds this will take.
The concern that this number will be overwhelming for the hospitals based on imagined in worst-case scenarios, has led the authorities to announce “strict measures” throughout the winter and spring.
The obvious question
We who are employees in the hospitals have in many areas been privileged through the pandemic. We have had work to go to every single day.
We have largely been able to run the business without interruption. We have kept our income. We got vaccinated early.
At times, we have had good capacity as a result of other infectious diseases being less widespread. We are grateful for the efforts that the municipalities, nursing homes and society in general have made to avoid congestion in the hospitals.
We believe that it should be possible to accept a higher infection pressure in the future
The contact-reducing measures and the rules for isolation and quarantine impose a significant burden on, among other things, cultural life, sports, the school sector, youth and private business. Individuals are disadvantaged at home, in working life, when crossing borders and so on. Some lose their livelihoods.
The costs are enormous in combating a condition whose severity can be prevented by vaccine. The obvious question is: At what cost, and not least over how long, are we as a society willing to go to great lengths to avoid congestion in the health service?
We believe, like many others, that we must live with covid-19 as a virus that causes disease in the population, in the foreseeable future. We understand that there may be new variants, and that this may lead to changed conditions.
But we believe that it should now be possible to accept a higher infection pressure in the future, and that it will pave the way for the immunity the population needs.
Specifically, we think:
- We must accept faster spread of infection among vaccinated people.
- We can relax the quarantine and isolation rules somewhat, so that these lead to less absence from school and work.
- Vaccinated cohorts (for example families) must be free to be infected by a sick member. So isolate yourself together, instead of isolating the sick person alone.
- We should introduce vaccine passes, to get even more people to get vaccinated.
- If possible, we must to a greater extent protect the unvaccinated and vulnerable.
- For a period, we have to accept a certain overload and the need for restructuring in the hospitals.
- The number of beds in both regular wards and intensive care units must be higher in the future, in order to be able to handle fluctuations in demand.
Today’s repeated “endure a little more” strategy is exhausting and detrimental to large sections of society.
Let us strengthen the incentives for vaccination and at the same time release some of the burden of action. Let’s live more normally now.
Øystein Fløtten is a section chief physician at the Department of Lung in Bergen Health and an associate professor at the University of Bergen.
Tomas Eagan is section chief physician at the Department of Lung in Bergen Health and professor at the University of Bergen.
The debate post expresses the authors’ personal opinions.