Covid and long Covid in particular remain serious threats so masks should still be used in crowded places – Dr Gwenetta Curry

It seems as if Covid continues to have its grip on people's lives across the globe.

We are now firmly into the summer months which lead to clear increases in gatherings and family holidays. As we prepare for trips, many are concerned with the potential threat of Covid affecting their travel plans.

The data indicate the UK has entered a new wave of infections with the surge of the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 across the nation.

These new variants continue to demonstrate growth advantages. According to the Office for National Statistics’ Covid infection survey, approximately 250,700 people were infected on any given day during the week of June 17 across the UK.

In Scotland, 67.1 per cent of people in private homes who had a strong positive test result between March 1 and June 2 reported having symptoms. While death rates remain low, hospitals have seen an increase in Covid admissions which has increased pressure on an already overwhelmed healthcare system.

Moving forward with in-person events and festivals has been thought to have been the cause or link to the rapid increase in cases we are seeing now.

Across social media, many people who have managed to avoid contracting the virus for well over two years are now infected.

Some feel powerless in the fight against the virus while others see it as an inevitable consequence of going back to “normal”.

Face masks should still be worn in crowded places to reduce the spread of Covid, says Dr Gwenetta Curry (Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA)

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Vaccines and the use of antiviral medications have helped to reduce people’s risk of death but some people are still feeling crummy after contracting the virus. The use of masks in indoor or crowded spaces has been effective in decreasing the spread of Covid and the reduced access to home testing has removed a level of security that would make these events safe.

So, what are the next steps? As it has become the responsibility of everyone to protect each other from contracting the virus, we must be diligent in staying home if we are unwell and wearing a mask in crowded spaces.

There are people still shielding due to various vulnerabilities so we must all be considerate when deciding to socialise. In-person events have been great for collaborations and networking, but we must not forget how online events made things more accessible for people who are generally left out of certain spaces.

Whether it is social anxiety or physical disability, incorporating more hybrid events would allow for greater accessibility and inclusivity for all groups. Covid has been detrimental in many ways but has also demonstrated the possibilities of an inclusive environment.

Whether people are looking forward to their summer holidays or events like the festivals, we all must continue to be cautious with the current surge of infections. Although the threat of death has greatly reduced, the risk of contracting long Covid remains a real consideration.

ONS data estimated that 1.8 million people living in private households in the UK were experiencing self-reported long Covid as of April 2022. Scientists are still working to determine what the causes are for some suffering from prolonged symptoms while others return to normal after the virus has cleared their body.

Dr Gwenetta Curry is an Edinburgh University lecturer on race, ethnicity and health

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