Effectiveness Over Time & Delta

On Sunday, Metropole brings you a COVID-19 update from Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer, an Austrian virologist who works and teaches at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City.

April 25, 2021

Here again my weekly coronavirus update.

Worldwide, 147 million official infections have been registered until now, 3,115,000 people have died from COVID-19. Globally, unfortunately, we have peaks in terms of new infections per day. More than one billion doses of vaccine have now been administered.

Slowly Getting Better in Europe

The situation in Europe is still mixed, but getting better.

Portugal and the UK are controlling the virus quite well, Denmark is struggling a bit, but it doesn’t look bad either. The situation is similar in Belgium.

Finland, Norway, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Czechia, Romania, Poland, Italy and Austria are coming down from, it is actually getting better there.

France, Sweden, Switzerland, Greece and Croatia are at the crest of their respective waves, but it looks like there will be no more increase in cases per day.

Germany, the Netherlands and Spain are still struggling with increases (but in Spain, it doesn’t look very dramatic).

The situation is not rosy, but not bad either. The direction is right almost everywhere.

Quite Good in North America, Strong Wave in South America

North America is looking quite good. In the US, there has not been another wave, the number of cases continues to fall – right now, things are looking very good here. This is also true for New York, although the city is lagging a bit behind the country. Canada, unfortunately, is experiencing a wave, but the situation there is stabilizing and hopefully cases will go down again soon.

In Mexico, the case numbers continue to drop as well. In Central America, the situation is mixed, but the trend of cases seems to show upward. Almost all of South America is in a very strong fall wave, which in many countries is worse than waves before.

Mixed Situation in Asia

The situation in Asia is also mixed. Japan and Malaysia are experiencing a rise in cases, South Korea is holding up well, Vietnam too (the small ones like Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are anyway doing well).

The situation in Indonesia is quite calm, the Philippines are coming down from a wave. Thailand is in the middle of the first wave, the number of cases is increasing.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are in the middle of large outbreaks. Especially in India, the situation is particularly bad at the moment, as we know from the media. Much blame is put on the “Indian double mutant” (B.1.617). Unfortunately, India was fully open, no measures were taken and it was believed that the worst was over.

Although B.1.617 is involved in the outbreak in India, other virus strains such as B.1.618 are also in the mix and since little sequencing is done, it is unclear what the real percentages of the “double mutant” are. The simultaneous outbreaks in neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh were caused by B.1.1.7 and B.1.351. Once again, it seems that political failures have been made, but then blamed on a viral variant. Boris Johnson did the same in Great Britain.

Increasing Cases in the Middle East

In the Middle East and the Maghreb, case numbers are increasing in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Oman and Egypt. Otherwise, the region looks pretty OK.

In Israel, the number of cases is now below 200 per day on average, and they have had days without a single death (Israel’s population is about the same size as Austria’s). About 60% of the population is vaccinated, plus people who were infected but are not vaccinated.

In Africa, Gabon and Angola have many cases at the moment, Kenya and Ethiopia are coming down from a wave. The rest of the continent looks OK.

Go-Ahead for J&J Vaccine

In the USA there is news about the J&J vaccine. On Friday, the ACIP (basically the National Vaccination Panel) met and proposed that the vaccine be given a warning for thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, but then be recommended again without restrictions. So, the J&J vaccine that will be administered again starting on Monday, April 26. This was to be expected.

A Few Words About Austria’s Opening Plans

I don’t really have much to say about the opening plans in Austria.

I agree that we are largely over the hill and that a good and cautious plan should be drawn up to return to normality. But it’s going a bit too fast now (especially because in western Austria, the situation doesn’t look very good). If this is not done properly now, we will have a June shutdown instead of the end of the pandemic in summer.

For example, I would change the schools to home schooling until the end of the semester. I don’t see it as a problem to open outdoor seating (Schanigärten) for everyone, but indoor rooms should only be opened for people with immunity (vaccinated or having been through an infection) – this should also apply to the staff (you just have to prioritize who to vaccinate first).

The same can be implemented for cultural events. An outdoor concert with a mask is certainly not a problem. A concert in a room only with people who have immunity should also be fine. That would be a temporary solution until summer.

If all goes well, one can lift the whole measures with the time. And then also use the summer to vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated – because it will depend on what happens in the fall.

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Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer
Prof. Krammer is the Principal Investigator of the Sinai-Emory Multi-Institutional Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Center (SEM-CIVIC). Currently Prof. Krammer holds a position as a Professor of Vaccinology at the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He has published more than 100 papers, is member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Virology, Plos One and Heliyon and is a peer reviewer for more than 30 journals.

Current Status

If you live in Vienna, make sure to register for getting a vaccine against COVID-19 under impfservice.wien.  Here you can book your vaccination appointment.

The City of Vienna offers free vaccinations without an appointment to everyone – regardless of citizenship, residency or insurance status – at multiple locations across the city. 

Vienna has reinstated a number of coronavirus restrictions for the fall. The Austrian government has presented a plan for schools and universities.  

Here’s an overview of where you can get tested for COVID-19 in Vienna and how the free PCR “gargle” tests at home work. 

If everything is a bit much for you or you experience domestic violence of any kind, here is our mental health resource article.

Numbers

For current coronavirus numbers, check the website of Ministry of Health and the AGES dashboard.

The Austrian Ministry of Health also publishes daily vaccination statistics and a preview of scheduled deliveries.

Resources

The City of Vienna has compiled comprehensive information on questions and answers regarding coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease in English.

The Austrian Ministry of Health has put together FAQs on the coronavirus and also provides material to download on how to protect yourself and others from the disease, also in English.

Furthermore, the ministry will constantly update its German-language website with information on the number of people tested and cases of COVID-19 in Austria.

Hotlines

Health advice by telephone1450

If you show symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties) or fear that you are ill, stay at home and dial health number 1450 for further procedures (diagnostic clarification).

Coronavirus hotline AGES+43 0800 555 621

The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) answers questions about the coronavirus (general information on transmission, symptoms, prevention) 24 hours a day at +43 0800 555 621.

VKI hotline for travel law questions+43 0800 201 211

For legal questions concerning trips that have already been booked (e.g. whether a trip can be cancelled free of charge), the experts of the Association for Consumer Information (VKI) provide advice free of charge from Monday to Sunday between 09:00 and 15:00 at +43 0800 201 211.