Virus Expert Says "Don't Go Here" During Surge
With pandemic restrictions being lifted in the U.S. and many parts of the world, people will have the option to safely travel overseas for the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020—but a new surge in the Omicron BA.2 subvariant might undermine those plans. "The pandemic is very much with us and evolving dynamically, with a long, bumpy road ahead," says Danny Altmann, Ph.D, professor of immunology at Imperial College London. "The option to sleepwalk through this, taking automatic-pilot choices based on what was 'good enough' in the first wave is one we adopt at our peril." Here are five places dealing with serious COVID-19 surges you should avoid. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
COVID-19 cases in the U.K. are surging, with more than 300,000 cases being reported each day. "In my estimation the most important driver of the recent increase in cases and hospitalizations in the U.K. is the rise of BA.2 omicron subvariant," says Professor Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh. "There is no obvious reason why cases should fall dramatically in the next few weeks – Covid-19 is still here and still a significant public health problem."
Hong Kong is currently in the grip of its worst COVID-19 surge since the pandemic began. "I think the most important [factor] is the vaccination problem in Hong Kong, the extremely low vaccination rates among the elderly, especially those older than 80 years old," says Dr. Kelvin To, clinical associate professor of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong. "The vaccination rate for them was only about 20 percent by the end of 2021. That's the most vulnerable population, and they're not protected at all. The data from our pandemic on this wave is very clear: Those elderly who were not vaccinated actually had a much, much higher, death rate than those with the vaccination."
The BA.2 subvariant is on the rise in Australia, with some experts estimating that more than 50 per cent of cases in NSW are BA.2. "We will get more waves of COVID-19, it is inevitable," says James McCaw, an epidemiologist at Melbourne University. "And we're starting to see, perhaps, the early signs that it's coming right now."
COVID-19 cases surged to record levels in March, the highest since the start of the pandemic. "We are in a situation that I would like to describe as critical," says German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. "We have strongly rising case figures again. I keep reading that the omicron variant is a milder variant but that's only true to a limited extent. The situation is objectively worse than the public mood. We can not be satisfied with a situation in which 250 people are dying every day and the prospect is that in a few weeks more people will die."
South Korea was breaking records with new infections in March, reporting over 600,000 a day—although there is hope the new surge has peaked. "But we cannot let down our guard, as the number of serious cases and deaths could spike further two to three weeks after the peak," says Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol. "As the stealth omicron has been spreading at a fast pace, the number of virus patients has moved up again in some European nations. We need to monitor the situation more closely before definitely saying if the pandemic is tracking downward."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.