A word from Dr Greg White, Cromwell Family Practice GP

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Why not to ignore Covid messages

All right, I am going to get all “sciency”.

It’s becoming apparent many scientists have grave concerns about the direction some countries are heading, causing a rebound in cases.

The US, UK, Denmark, Australia, and now NZ, have taken their foot off the throat of Omicron to allow for more “normal” living.

Unfortunately this has translated to “ignore covid, it’s gone” in many people’s minds – witness the Dunedin student quarter that has been ravaged the past month.

This poor messaging, and message fatigue, is a dangerous combination.

Key messages, from scientists, I think should be loudly reinforced, to cut through political posturing:

1) Covid is not going away, possibly ever. There will be no “herd immunity”. No disease in history has been eradicated without a complete vaccination programme.

2) New variants will keep emerging. The more it spreads, the more mutations will happen, for better or worse. Omicron is not mild. BA.2 seems worse than BA.1 after only a few months. Read on.

3) It’s not inevitable “we’re all going to get it”. By avoiding social gatherings, wearing N95 masks everywhere, being boosted, ventilating buildings, and handwashing, there is a very good chance you can avoid it. Some of these are hard for people and kids. So should you? Read on.

4) Vaccines work. Hong Kong is currently the worst place on earth for Covid, with overflowing morgues and hospitals, due to low rates.

5) Avoid the unvaccinated. Sorry, but the numbers don’t lie. You are 20 times more likely to catch Covid from your unvaccinated uncle.

6) Gatherings of 100 people are a massive number when 1/3 of the population in some areas has the virus. Stay home!

7) Masks work. N95s reduce transmission around 90%.

8) Don’t get Covid. Why? Because it has many long-term unknown effects. Very similar to smoking. The largest longitudinal yet, of 10 million people, shows a 60%, yes SIXTY PERCENT, increase in heart attacks and strokes in the year after having Covid. That’s 50 people per thousand, having major life threatening events, in the year after contracting Covid. That’s just heart problems, there are many other long Covid symptoms suffered by around one third of people also.

In summary, don’t be embarrassed wearing a mask, ever. I am saying this so I don’t have to spend my career looking after long Covid patients I can’t do anything for.