We are all part of the solution in handling the pandemic and returning to normality, head of the Scientific Advisory Committee, Constantinos Tsioutis told CNA on Monday and underlined that cooperation and solidarity from society and invoking personal responsibility are a must to come out of the current situation.
Vaccination, he further said, at this stage, is the most important weapon available that will help us return to normalcy.
In an interview with CNA Tsioutis said that the Scientific Advisory Committee for COVID-19 has clarified it will not comment on measures underway or measures that are in consideration or lifting any measures. It is concentrating on informing citizens and the need for all to understand that the key to handling the pandemic from now on is each and every one of us and ourselves.
“This is our motto, if I can say that, from now on. To convey the message of cooperation and solidarity to our compatriots. The most important thing is that whoever we chose to meet, to ensure we are protected by the basic measures”.
He said that living with the virus for over a year now and based on the epidemiological picture, it is not whether the measures are strict enough or who is taking them or not but the responsibility that each of us have, primarily towards ourselves but also towards those around us.
Tsiouti said it is everyone’s responsibility to learn how to live with the virus and make it a part of our lives knowing what restricts spreading the virus from person to person and protecting everyone of us.
Invited to comment on those who continue to react and are unwilling to follow experts’ advice and blame the committee because they consider the measures decided are unfair especially those that require closing economic activities, Tsioutis said the experts advice and suggestions to the people, should not be in relation to restrictive measures and the issue of confinement, nor satisfying a temporary question. Our position and role is to explain the scientific issues arising in a simple manner, to establish a communication language that is understood by all, he added.
Regarding the inoculation programme, the head of the committee told CNA that according to information from other countries where the programme has significantly progressed, it has been proven that vaccination reduces the chance of serious illness, thus reducing the number of admissions, protecting lives, reducing transmission and allowing for relaxation of measures and opening of economic, cultural and social activities.
Something similar has happened in Cyprus, he said, where the majority of people over 70 have been vaccinated and for this reason we see a significant drop in elderly admissions. “At the same time, the vast majority of people who die from COVID19 are unvaccinated,” he added.
According to Dr. Tsioutis, there are a lot of things that we do not know for sure as far as COVID-19 is concerned therefore there cannot be a complete lifting of measures. He repeated that personal protective measures will continue to be in force, as well as social distancing, testing those with COVID-19 symptoms as well as their close contacts and house confinement where necessary.
For sure, he added, at this stage, vaccination is the most significant weapon which will return us the soonest to normalcy.
Invited to comment on the open letter which the committee sent to the people of Cyprus over the Easter holidays, he said he understands the feeling of injustice that can prevail, but we should not forget that we are going through an unprecedented public health crisis, which in itself is unfair. “The purpose of the letter was to understand that we are not all part of the problem, but we are all part of the solution, and the only way out of this crisis as soon as possible is to realize that we all have a role to play and to help, each one from his own position and in his own way”, he added.
Dr. Tsiouti said the committee’s members have a responsibility to convey the scientific data in a simple language, to answer questions and explain in a simple way how we are supposed to function within a security framework, avoiding becoming part of the transmission chain. That was the reason the committee published the letter and was signed individually by the people who supported it, he added.
Regarding the variations of the virus, the resumption of flights and the possible dangers from variants other than the British one, Dr. Tsiouti said SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that mutates often and fast and among the tens of thousands of variants registered, some have epidemiological and clinical significance as they spread faster with severe repercussions.
Dr. Tsiouti said no one questions the significance of variants and the epidemiological picture has changed greatly due to the UK variant, however the key to handling the variants and stopping their spread is personal protection and vaccination.
He also said what we need to keep in mind is that no one knows how long the pandemic will last, how intense it will be or the form it will take when the rate of vaccination coverage in the world reaches the expected levels.
“To be precise, we cannot pinpoint even the last element accurately, that is, what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated to change the course of the pandemic and what that course will be,” he said.
We know, he added that the virus spreads from person to person after close contact and in crowded areas with bad ventilation, vaccination limits transmission and the possibility of one having symptoms that require hospitalization or even dying from COVID-19 and as long as there is transmission, there is a possibility to see more variants.
“Let us envision a scenario where all of us, can work together to halt the spread of the virus in the community, to implement individual measures and daily rules of personal protection, get vaccinated when our turn comes and when the virus enters our community we will be able to stop the transmission chain with all the measures we implement. This would make our daily lives easier and reinforce the feeling of safety and keep our society safe and healthy”, he remarked.
Asked what measures and parametres will be taken into consideration about the measures that will apply after 10th May, bearing in mind that this week’s cases might need hospitalisation next week, he said the committee is aware of the delay between new cases, hospitalisations and ICU admissions as well as deaths and some of this week’s cases will be admitted, some will require ICU and some will die.
“I will redirect the question to what we should be doing…” said Dr. Tsioutis and said since we know how the virus is transmitted, since we know that if we don’t take measures, we risk catching and transmitting it to our people, endangering their lives, ending up in hospital or worse, the only way that it will benefit the entirety is to change how we see things.
Through the experience and knowledge we have all contained, we should be discussing how we should all work together to gradually return to normalcy which includes reactivating the economy, society and culture in safe and viable framework and keep away as possible any possibility of a new escalation and discussion on increasing measures, Dr. Tsioutis concluded.