ATHENS – The transmission of the Omicron variant is expected to peak quickly and start to level off within January, based on how it behaved in South Africa, expert epidemiologist and member of the pandemic experts’ committee Dr. Gkikas Magiorkinis said in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) radio station ‘Praktoreio 104.9 FM’ on Monday.
“The most likely scenario is that we will see a decline within January. The second scenario, which is less probable, is a decline by the end of February. Based on the above, I believe that it will soon peter out,” Magiorkinis said.
An assistant professor at the department of health and epidemiology of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens School of Medicine, he said there was concern over the high number of cases over the holidays “as they may lead several people to outpatient clinics”. He said the government was monitoring the phenomenon to see if the pressure on the health system will increase and what else needs to be done.
He advised people that are very socially active to avoid contact with persons belonging to high-risk groups or the very elderly for the next two to three weeks. If it is essential to meet them, they should wear masks and do a self-test beforehand, he added.
“For those that are vaccinated, the risk is lower. What we are interested in is to not generate pressure from the ages over 60 and from the unvaccinated,” he said.
On whether schools should open on January 10, Magiorkinis said that there was currently no scenario which showed a benefit from delaying the return of schools by a week, while it would create huge stresses for society that needed to be taken into account. “…We have to look at it in relation to other countries,” he added.
“Shutting schools, as a measure, was always in order to protect older age groups from possible transmission. Omicron is an extremely contagious variant so, theoretically, whenever schools open transmission will happen. There is no protocol that can stop it.”
On the possibility of a fourth vaccine dose, he said this was something that was being discussed for the immunocompromised and especially for vulnerable groups.
On the year ahead with respect to the pandemic, Magiorkinis predicted that there will be a better Easter and summer in 2022:
“I cannot rule out the possibility that a variant will emerge that is more contagious, more deadly, as Delta was. I consider, however, that this possibility is extremely small. We have a year in which to capitalise on what we gained and we are getting the oral medications that will soon be available. It is one more step toward ending the pandemic.”