Professor Alex Friedrich was speaking at the Commercial Club Groningen
According to Professor Friedrich, head of the department of medical microbiology and infectious diseases at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), young people are considerably less likely to become ill from the virus than older people. But they can be infected and also be very contagious.
Because they hardly notice that they have the virus, and often don’t notice much more about it than a flu, it is often difficult for young people to understand why they have to live in isolation and why their lives are drastically curtailed, he said. As reported by the GIC.
“It is understandable that many students and other young people have a hard time with this. But students have also not been sufficiently told what the problem is. Namely that they may not become ill themselves, but can indeed spread the virus, also to family members. or acquaintances who can become seriously ill because of this, which makes students feel like ‘it’s not my game t play in.’ That is why we really need a huge campaign to explain once more why these sacrifices are necessary”, argued Friedrich.
According to the Groningen professor, it is wise to involve students in solving the problem. “Students are young and therefore less likely to get sick. They actually wear a ‘bulletproof’ vest that protects them against the disease. But we should make use of that. When there is a vaccine, we could ask students to help with massive vaccinations. And we can also use students to convince other students how best to behave in order to limit the spread of the virus”, says Friedrich.
Test, test, test
Earlier this year, the Groningen professor became well known nationally because he had employees of the UMCG tested for the virus on a large scale. He thus managed to prevent the virus from spreading by employees who had been on winter sports holidays, so that the number of infections in Groningen remained considerably lower for some time than elsewhere in the Netherlands.
Method of building immunity ‘unacceptable’
In his speech, he fiercely opposed the idea that we should let the virus run its course in order to build up so-called ‘herd immunity’. According to Friedrich, 84 percent of the population would indeed hardly get sick, with ‘only’ 12 percent of the population ending up in hospital: in absolute numbers, this is about two million people.
Also, 3 percent of the population would end up in intensive care, but this in actual terms is 510,000 people. And 1 percent of the population would die: that’s about 170,000 people. “The method of doing nothing and getting people to build up resistance is unacceptable,” said Friedrich.
Incidentally, Friedrich does not like the comparison of corona with ‘a flu’. “The SARS-Coronavirus is ten to sixteen times worse than influenza in terms of death and hospital admissions.”
According to Friedrich, the strategy should be to contain the disease, save time and minimise any burden on hospitals until there is a vaccine. “We cannot prevent the disease, we can only slow it down”, he says.
According to the virologist, 44 vaccines are currently being developed. There is no conclusive evidence of any of them to be effective. So it will take a while before it is there. “And if it is there, millions of people have to be injected in the Netherlands: you can’t do that in six months. So I think we will have to deal with it for another year or a half.”
“But we’re handling it much better than in March this year. We’ve learned a lot, and tests are getting faster and faster. So I’m sure we will be able to control the pandemic. will have become a ‘common’ infectious disease within a year and a half.”