Dmitry Lopushov: 'Our people will die not because of Covid-19 but because there will be no one to help them'

Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Tatarstan — about the threat of a mass outbreak due to Omicron and new anti-records on the number of infected

Dmitry Lopushov: 'Our people will die not because of Covid-19 but because there will be no one to help them'
Photo: нкдгб.рф

Omicron is most likely already in Tatarstan, it just hasn't been diagnosed yet, Dmitry Lopushov, the chief visiting epidemiologist and specialist in vaccine prevention of the Ministry of Healthcare of Tatarstan, is convinced. The doctor urges everyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do it now, before the next outbreak of Covid-19, which may become the most massive. As an example, he cites countries where a new wave of pandemic is already raging: “In the USA, another anti-record of infections has broken this week — more than 1,13 million per day, and Omicron is to blame in 90% of cases. If we compare these data with the population of Tatarstan, we can predict up to 10 thousand cases per day — these are huge figures!” In these conditions, people will die not so much because of the coronavirus, Lopushov warns in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.

“It is possible to predict up to 10,000 cases a day in Tatarstan”

Dmitry Vladimirovich, some experts cautiously predict that with the onset of Omicron, the pandemic will leave the acute phase and move into a sluggish process.

But we must remember that even with Omicron, a severe course is quite possible among the unvaccinated. And the mass nature of the process is also possible. What if there are not 200 such patients in Tatarstan, but 500 or even 1000 every day? You can look at what is happening now in the United States, where this week another anti-record of coronavirus infections has been broken — more than 1,13 million per day. And in 90 percent of cases, the Omicron strain is “to blame”.

If we compare these data with the population of Tatarstan, we can predict up to 10 thousand cases per day. These are huge figures. Who will work in such a situation, bring bread, treat us, if doctors, employees of bread factories fall into this number? This paralyses all activities. In our country, people will die not because they are infected with coronavirus, but because there will simply be no one to help them.

At the peak of the pandemic, in November, about 250 new cases were recorded daily in Tatarstan. And it was hard for the healthcare system. What if it is more than 1,000 laboratory-confirmed cases? And this indicator still needs to be multiplied by the number of those who will be ill easily or asymptomatically and will not seek medical help at all.

Now the incidence has actually decreased in Tatarstan. One can estimate the numbers as much as they like, but we look at the number of requests for medical care and places in hospitals. There are a lot of free beds in hospitals now.

Is it possible that Tatarstan citizens who are not in a hurry to get vaccinated are adding data on Omicron and its ability to get away from antibodies?

In any case, all the data suggest that the course of the disease among the vaccinated is mild, without fatal outcomes. This is emphasised in almost all scientific works. Yes, we will be infected, the coronavirus is most likely with us forever. But we must strive to ensure that it switches to the ARD format. How was it in the pre-Covid-19 era? We all had acute respiratory viral infections and even went to work with a slight cold. And if the coronavirus turns into such form of a mild acute respiratory infection, then life will normalise. There has never been such a thing that flights to any country were cancelled due to a large number of ARD cases.

If the coronavirus turns into the form of an ordinary SARS — well, a person was ill for 7 days without any complications and recovered, this, in fact, can be considered a complete victory over the pandemic.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
Yes, we will be infected, the coronavirus is most likely with us forever. But we must strive to ensure that it switches to the ARD format

“There are only a few days left before the onset of Omicron”

Have the New Year holidays had a strong impact on the rate of vaccination in Tatarstan?

The rate of vaccination has really decreased. The maximum number of people who could be vaccinated in one day was 42 thousand Tatarstan citizens. Already at the stage of the slowdown, before the New Year holidays, we vaccinated about 3,2 thousand Tatarstan citizens per day. And for six vacation days, we vaccinated 3,2 thousand people. That is, there is a decline. Certainly, it is also connected with weekends. But the population needs to understand that we are repeatedly falling into the same trap as in May last year. Now there is a real decline in morbidity. At the height of the pandemic, the opponents of vaccination stated that it was impossible to get vaccinated during a period of rising morbidity. Now is the time to get vaccinated.

There will be a rapid rise in morbidity, and it is associated with the onset of the Omicron strain. Therefore, all unvaccinated will fall into this wave. The virus will circulate as long as there are people susceptible to it.

When will Omicron come?

The coming of Omicron is only a matter of time. Days or weeks. Most likely, it is already circulating in our country, it is just that it has not yet been diagnosed in Tatarstan. In any case, Omicron will come, especially since many cases have already been registered in Russia.

Most likely, with the coming of Omicron, the number of infected people will increase significantly. Now it is the time to get vaccinated. Those who have not yet been vaccinated should come and do it. Those who passed the initial vaccination six months ago have time to come and get revaccinated.

There is no need to repeat the sad experience when in late spring and early summer we urged everyone to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, many did not have time for it — someone was on vacation, someone was preparing for the summer. And we lost some of them at the peak of the incidence in October-November — we just buried them. Do not fall into the same trap.

We need to come and follow the vaccination path that the whole world has followed. France has introduced additional vaccination, Israel is already conducting the fourth revaccination. But we still can't complete the primary vaccination. We have people who are still struggling. There are elderly people who have not been vaccinated, and who, obviously, will be the first victims of the next rise in morbidity. And we don't know how the Omicron will develop in them.

Yes, there are some data that allow us to hope that Omicron develops to a mild extent in vaccinated individuals and in young people. How it will develop in the elderly, who have not been vaccinated, but have a bunch of chronic diseases, we do not know — we need to think about it for the elderly themselves and their children.

Most likely, children who have such an irresponsible attitude towards their elderly parents want to attend their funeral. It's time to get vaccinated or revaccinated and try to reduce the rise in morbidity, which we will soon have to go through.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
We need to come and follow the vaccination path that the whole world has followed. France has introduced additional vaccination, Israel is already conducting the fourth revaccination. But we still can't complete the primary vaccination. We have people who are still struggling

“Community immunity is a dynamic process”

Before the new year, it was said that in order to achieve collective immunity of 80% in Tatarstan, less than 300 thousand people remained to be vaccinated (according to data at the end of the year, it was 72%). When will it be reached?

The index of community immunity of 80% has not yet been reached. This is the level recommended by the World Health Organisation and demonstrates the experience of other countries. We have literally several hundred thousand people left to vaccinate.

But it is necessary to understand that collective immunity is a dynamic process. The more we delay the time, the more people who have passed the primary vaccination will appear, who already have time to get revaccinated. People who have undergone primary vaccination, but have not been revaccinated six months later, will no longer be included in the community immunity. And the bar of collective immunity becomes almost unattainable.

The number of persons subject to vaccination due to the need to undergo revaccination will only increase. Because those who did not get vaccinated will be added to those who did not come for revaccination. And the process of achieving community immunity will go in the opposite direction. The more time passes from the initial vaccination, the more people will be added to the number of unvaccinated who need to be revaccinated. And the bar of 80 percent will be increasingly unattainable for us.

But it all depends on us. Only we, conscious citizens undergoing vaccination and revaccination can contribute brick by brick and build a wall. If everyone does not bring their own brick, we will never finish the wall.

Photo: нкдгб.рф
Until everyone gets over it, the virus will not disappear. Accordingly, some of those who have been ill will leave the world. If we are ready to lose our loved ones, we can not care about anything — not to wear masks, not to get vaccinated, not to treat our hands with antiseptics. But to the question whether such people belong to the “reasonable person” type, the answer is obvious
Interviewed by Kristina Ivanova
Tatarstan