Experts warn that returning to pre-pandemic social and economic life can be disastrous as the coronavirus pandemic is not over yet.
Turning the clock back to pre-pandemic days still sounds like a utopian dream, but many countries are fast lifting the Covid-19 measures, opening up markets and allowing tourists so that the threat of the virus does not change business as usual forever.
But with different Covid-19 variants emerging in India, the UK and elsewhere, many wonder whether it is too early to take steps towards full normalisation.
Speaking to TRT World, Professor Dr. Abdullah Sayiner from Ege University’s department of chest disease, warned against the Delta variant of the coronavirus, saying it poses a serious threat to humanity as it is much more contagious than the previous variants.
“The vaccination rate is not sufficient. The early data said that Delta plus can infect previously infected or vaccinated people. So there is a serious threat ahead of us,” Sayiner said.
Despite inequality to access the Covid-19 vaccine, many developed countries have been carrying out mass vaccination campaigns in recent months.
As of Tuesday, nearly 24.4 percent of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine while the inoculation rate has already surpassed 50 percent in some Western countries, including the US, Canada, Germany, and the UK, according to Our World in Data.
The threat of the Delta variants has made a third Covid-19 wave inevitable.
In its assessment in May, the Public Health Authority of England warned that the Delta variant was 51 percent to 67 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant, which first appeared in the UK last year.
The Delta variant was first detected in India, where out of 400,000 Covid deaths, 200,000 were caused by the Delta variant between March and May.
After India, it became the dominant strain in the UK and increased the daily case numbers from 1,354 on May 1 to 27,781 on July 1.
Sayiner had predicted the spread of the British variant in Turkey two or three months after its first detection.
He told TRT World that there is a possibility that the delta variant, which has been found in Turkey in the past few days, will trigger the third wave in the country in the coming months.
In light of all these challenges, Sayiner said it's "definitely too early" to push countries toward normalcy.
“It is not possible for the whole world to breathe a sigh of relief without reaching a sufficient level of immunity in all countries of the world,” he said.
Although the UK has been way ahead in its vaccination drive compared to other EU nations, the Delta variant has started to reverse all those gains, as new infections are on the rise.
“It's not a very good idea to fully open or fully return to a normal working environment at this time,” Sayiner said. “It is necessary to reduce the frequency of work as much as possible, especially in closed environments and offices.”
Professor Dr. Caferi Tayyar Sasmaz from Mersin University's department of public health said that “it would be wrong to say that until 70 percent of the society gains immunity, normalisation should not be returned.”
Sasmaz thinks that the steps towards normalisation should be taken only when the global vaccination reaches 70 percent, which will get "rid of the pandemic to a large extent."
“The pandemic still continues, closed and crowded environments are the places where this disease is most at risk of transmission,” Sasmaz said.
Returning to the office
According to Apple’s internal letter to its employees obtained by The Verge, Tim Cook, CEO of the US technology giant, said the staff will be working from the office three days a week in early September.
“For now, let me simply say that I look forward to seeing your faces,” Cook said in the letter.
“I know I’m not alone in missing the hum of activity, the energy, creativity and collaboration of our in-person meetings and the sense of community we’ve all built,” he added.
Sasmaz recommends a shift system or remote working arrangement, if possible, in crowded office environments.
“Employers in sectors where remote working is possible should use remote working in both the public and private sectors,” he said.
He also thinks it is too early to call people who work remotely into the office in some sectors. In other words, he said, it should be evaluated according to the office and working conditions.
Importance of vaccine
If we don't vaccinate the whole world, the pandemic is going to stay. That's common knowledge. But when the world is facing stark vaccine inequality, with rich nations stocking up on supplies while the poor ones struggle to even get their frontline health workers inoculated, how do we achieve that goal?
Sasmaz said Covax, a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, is probably an answer to fixing the vaccine inequality and speeding up the vaccination drive in developing countries.
“If countries producing vaccines are motivated to earn money by selling the vaccines they produce, it will not produce purposeful results,” Sasmaz said, adding that since the cost of mass vaccination is high, "who will cover it?"
South Korea recently announced that it is in talks with mRNA vaccine makers including Pfizer and Moderna to produce Covid-19 shots in the country and is ready to offer the capacity to make up to 1 billion doses immediately. Sasmaz mentioned this development as an example of increasing the global capacity of the vaccine which could be a hope for poor countries.
Sasmaz also mentioned the advantage of the diversity of vaccine producing methods which could be a great chance in the fight against the coronavirus.
Currently, mRNA vaccine, viral vector vaccine and traditional inactive vaccine methods have been used against the pandemic.
“A vaccine that may be ineffective against mutations in the future can be used instead of another,” he said.
Furthermore, the use of mRNA technology paved the way to treat other diseases like cancer.