SARS-Cov-2 is a more stable virus than influenza. Trillions of replications have thrown up a handful of variants of concern, clustering around a small set of mutations. These variants are worth monitoring but the vaccines effectively prevent them causing serious illness. There is a theoretical risk of a more dangerous variant but it does not seem more likely than a shift in the influenza virus. If it were to occur, we could now manage it with short-term measures and rapid vaccine modification.
…Vaccination protects the vaccinated. It helps protect others but it means that we take no greater risk in the autumn of 2020 than in the autumn of 2019. Interventions should be proportionate to that – which means that most cannot be justified.
Some are worth retaining, like improved hygiene in public places or greater readiness to stay at home with respiratory symptoms. It is probably a good idea to invest further in the search for effective antiviral therapies. Promoting better population health through diet and exercise is always a good thing. But it is time for a bonfire of face masks and the despatch of lateral flow tests to landfill.
For a virus that spreads via airborne transmission of aerosols—something scientists have known for many months, though it took the World Health Organization until the end of April to update its guidance—these plastic barriers between diners were always a confusing addition. Think of the particles that disperse through the air when someone smokes a cigarette. A plastic barrier wouldn’t prevent you from smelling that cigarette and breathing some of that same air.