So the question is: where has corona gone? Can we expect a revival? When we ask these kinds of questions to Alma Tostmann, she first adds that she doesn’t just want to become ‘the face of caution’.
Perhaps that is also the fate of the epidemiologist: to be accused of scaremongering. You research and look at the scenarios of an epidemic. Those scenarios can be favourable, but also slightly less favourable. And it is precisely those least favorable ones that stand out.
First the positive story: for the time being there is little going on. “It’s going in the right direction,” Tostmann says. But how do we actually know that, because since April 11 you no longer have to go to the GGD to confirm your positive self-test.
First, of course, we have the hospital numbers. If we compare these with exactly a year ago – when measures were still in place – the figures are in any case a lot better. Below are the daily hospital admissions and those in intensive care:
The wave we’ve seen in recent months has “really plummeted.” “Fortunately, this is reflected in hospitals,” says Tostmann. However, she believes it is likely that we will see another wave of infections and hospital admissions in the autumn.
The only disadvantage of the hospital figures is: if a new wave arrives, and you wait until you see it reflected in the hospital figures, then you are quite late. How do you keep track of the virus?
All over the country, general practitioners test patients who present with flu-like symptoms. In this way, it has been studied for years which viruses are circulating, such as the influenza virus or the RS virus. The coronavirus can also be followed in this way. The system would be more sensitive and therefore better if more general practices were connected to this surveillance system.
There is one more way to quickly find out if a new wave is coming. Through the sewer. If you are infected with the coronavirus, there are often virus particles in your stool. RIVM therefore also tests the sewer for virus particles.
“That’s a really valuable resource now,” says Tostmann. “You saw that the number of virus particles increased earlier this year and has been decreasing for some time now. That is very favorable. It is going really well.”
By the way, there is also a disadvantage. It is anonymous data. You don’t know whether the virus is spreading among healthy young people or among the elderly or vulnerable. Tostmann explains why this is important to know: “You often first have to deal with the spread of the virus among healthy people, then the more vulnerable groups become ill and only weeks later do you see the numbers increase in hospitals. always some time.”
“That is called syndrome surveillance. You indicate whether you have certain complaints. It is also easy to deduce from this, for example, when people suffer from hay fever. It also works for covid-like complaints. It would be better if more people would cooperate so that you could good regional distribution, and you can also share the results of your self-test.”
The latest OMT advice stated: if large-scale testing is stopped, something must be created that can serve as an alternative. “That might be this,” says the epidemiologist.
Finally, the latest news. Two sub-variants of omikron have emerged. BA.4 and BA.5 show a peak in the number of infections in South Africa. In Amsterdam, about 7 percent of the infections are now caused by such a new variant. Do we have to worry? “It’s a bit too early for that,” says the epidemiologist.
The fact that more infections occur in South Africa does not say much. It is a country in a different season, with a different population composition and the vaccination rate is also lower there.
Still, Tostmann and her colleagues are not reassured. If the infections also increase in the Netherlands, this can quickly lead to problems. This would put an even greater burden on the overloaded care chain. Many additional cases of lung covid must also be taken into account.
Tostmann keeps an eye on it: “If you really don’t want serious measures to be taken, you have to be there on time.”