RIGA - If a new, unknown, dangerous strain of the Covid-19 virus really begins to spread, then Latvia would not be the first country where it would start to spread from, Jurijs Perevoscikovs, Director of the Infectious Disease Risk Analysis and Prevention Department of the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC), told LETA.
With the lifting of considerable restrictions in China, the number of cases in the country has risen sharply and hospitals and crematoriums are overflowing. Thus, several foreign countries have expressed concern about China's openness regarding the number of infected persons and the risk that new variants of Covid-19 may appear.
To reduce the potential risks of disease, the European Union (EU) on Wednesday recommended that member states require negative Covid-19 tests for travelers arriving from China. An agreement has also been reached to recommend the wearing of medical or FFP2 masks on aircraft departing from China.
Perevoscikovs pointed out that the outbreak of Covid-19 in China was expected because the country had been in a period of restrictive measures for a long time, as a result of which people do not develop herd immunity. He admitted that it is not yet known whether this outbreak is related to a new strain of the Covid-19 virus, but theoretically it could be one of the factors that caused the outbreak.
"The EU recommendations were adopted based on these concerns. Although we know so far that the strains of the virus detected in China fully correspond to the strains circulating in the EU. We checked and they also fully correspond to the situation in Latvia, so we cannot say now whether the increase in the infection rate is related to the discovery of a new type of Covid-19," explained Perevoscikovs.
The expert pointed out that the EU requirements are preventive, and if a dangerous strain of Covid-19 is circulating in China, it will be detected by testing travelers or checking the situation in sewage. Thus, the information will be immediately available to the public and it will be possible to take some additional epidemiological safety measures.
On the other hand, the use of masks, in Perevoscikovs' assessment, is a reasonable requirement, because the first test results on planes from China show that approximately 30 percent to 50 percent of passengers were infected with Covid-19. The masks will accordingly protect those passengers who have not been infected with this virus from infection.