Mass contamination: Caution is required at major events

With the Festival d’été de Québec in full swing and the big events back-to-back, the COVID plays the spoilsport. Infections are increasing and hygiene measures are minimal or even absent in some cases. How can you protect yourself to limit the spread without sulking your pleasure? The Journal put the question to epidemiologist Kevin L’Espérance.

• Also read: COVID-19: Public Health recommends caution for the summer

• Also read: COVID-19: a significant increase in the number of hospital admissions in Quebec

Q: Hygiene measures are rather rare at events this summer. How can you protect yourself?

A: Covid-19 is primarily transmitted through aerosols. My main recommendation is to wear the mask whenever possible. This is the best measure we have to protect ourselves individually and collectively. It drastically reduces transmission and infection in crowds. It is also necessary to encourage external events and have up-to-date vaccination.

Q: Is it premature to hold major events without hygiene measures?

A: From an epidemiological point of view, that certainly worries me. But the social isolation that comes with overly restrictive hygiene measures is not good for our mental and physical health either. You have to try to balance things, but I think that for big mass events like the Festival d’été de Québec, we should stay with the group we arrived with as much as possible, encourage distancing and wear the mask as often as we can possible to wear should possible, especially at indoor and poorly ventilated events. Outside, the risk of transmission remains relatively low, but not zero.

Q: In a context where the population is primarily vaccinated, could mass contamination such as that observed this summer be beneficial for herd immunity?

A: The strategy of relying on natural immunity can be dangerous. Hypothetically speaking, if we are in a context where there are no hygiene measures and we tell everyone to go and catch COVID, there is a risk of an infection boom, as is the case at the moment, and we will see the effects such as deaths and severe Consequences suffer forms. There are still many uncertainties about the virus and the medium and long-term effects. On the other hand, being infected with COVID-19 confers some immunity. But natural immunity is difficult to study. Not many things are known, such as how long she lasts and how strong she is. However, we know that it is more variable than so-called artificial immunity. [vaccin].

Q: So despite the high vaccination rate, natural immunity is not a weapon to adequately protect the population?

A: The effectiveness of vaccination has diminished over time, so having current doses is important. We may feel that vaccines are ineffective because we have many cases and we are seeing an increase in severe forms of the disease. It is normal to see this. In absolute terms, it is directly linked to transmission, so transmission is increasing despite the vaccine [plus on observe] an increase in severe cases. Without health measures to reduce transmission, we see these increases occur.

Q: Can we hope that these mass contaminations will prevent another fall wave?

A: It’s very difficult to say. The last two summers the contamination was lower because we were outside more and there were still measures in place. There are almost no measurements here. We didn’t expect a surge like this this summer, but that’s probably because there are no favorable conditions to reduce transmission. I have the impression that we have to be careful in autumn [rentrée scolaire et retour de vacances]. If there are no measurements, I think the peak will continue beyond the summer.

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