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26 Jan, 2024 16:53

Covid has exhausted itself – top Russian epidemiologist

Although new strains of the virus may yet appear, it no longer has significant pandemic potential, Gennady Onishchenko says
Covid has exhausted itself – top Russian epidemiologist

Covid-19 has lost its pandemic potential in the years since it was flagged by the World Health Organization, Russia’s former chief health inspector Gennady Onishchenko has said.

Onishchenko’s statement comes after the Russian consumer rights and wellbeing watchdog Rospotrebnadzor stated earlier this month that the peak of Covid-19 infections had passed in Russia and that new mass vaccination campaigns were no longer necessary. It was noted, however, that people should nevertheless remain vigilant, as coronavirus cases still grow seasonally.

In an interview with RIA Novosti published on Thursday, Onishschenko, who is currently the deputy president of the Russian Academy of Education, acknowledged that over the years of the pandemic, up until the announcement of its conclusion by the WHO, the coronavirus had mutated and caused several serious waves of infections, including fatal ones. 

“New strains may still appear, [the virus] is constantly mutating,” the academic said. He added, however, that “this coronavirus, by all indications, has exhausted its pandemic potential.”

Covid-19 initially emerged in late 2019 and developed into the most widespread epidemic in nearly a century. In the three years since, the disease has killed an estimated seven million people around the world. The Lancet medical journal has suggested that number may even be higher at 18 million.

At the recent Davos Forum in Switzerland, world leaders also discussed a ‘Disease X’ pandemic - a hypothetical virus postulated to be 20 times deadlier than Covid-19. While the discussions sparked controversy in the media and on social media, experts have explained that the consideration of a hypothetical virus outbreak is the usual routine used by researchers and scientists when considering a plan of action to prepare health systems for such an emergency.