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Don’t Shut Down, but Pull Back to Contain the Virus’

July 15, 2020 07:26 AM


Don’t Shut Down, but Pull Back to Contain the Virus’
In US, states threw caution to the winds, says immunologist Anthony Fauci


Countries such as the US which are seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases need to pull back with a limited lockdown to contain the spread of the pandemic, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview conducted by Stanford School of Medicine on Tuesday.

Fauci, who also oversees Covid-19 vaccine development in the US, said he is “cautiously optimistic” that there will be a vaccine or multiple vaccines for Covid-19 by the end of this year or early 2021.

He said the reason for cases rising in the US is because the states threw caution to the wind instead of going for graded openings after the lockdown.

“We did not shut down entirely and that’s the reason why we went up. It had started to come down, and then we plateaued at a level that was really quite high, about 20,000 infections per day. Then, as we started to reopen, we are seeing the surges that we are seeing today,” Fauci said.

The response for such outbreaks is not to shut down completely but to pull back and follow unlocking guidelines in a prudent way, Fauci said. There are simple things one can do — keep physical distance, avoid crowds, wear masks and wash hands, he explained.

Fauci, 79, has become the face of the Covid-19 response as the US struggles to tackle the cases that have engulfed several states. While the White House is said to be unhappy with the advice given by Fauci, many infectious diseases experts have backed him. Fauci has led the responses to outbreaks such as HIV AIDS, Ebola and Zika.

On therapeutics, Fauci said randomised trials have shown that the steroid drug dexamethasone works for severely ill Covid-19 patients and remdesivir helps in patients with low oxygen levels. He said that in the next six months, a few antivirals, monoclonal antibodies and plasma therapy may be used to treat patients early on.

He said a couple of vaccine candidates are expected to go into phase 3 efficacy clinical trials at the end of July.

“I believe we are on a good track to get there in a reasonably good time,” Fauci said. Fauci said there needs to be pandemic preparedness because this is not something that will go away.

“From the scientific point of view, what we need to do is develop new avant-garde, sophisticated platform technologies where we can hit the ground running with vaccine development and not wait for pathogens,” he said.

This is the third pandemic with coronaviruses in the past 18 years — SARS in 2002, MERS in 2012 and now Covid-19. It makes sense that if a universal vaccine is to be developed, it should be for coronaviruses, Fauci said

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