Editorial Newsletter NRP 78

Marcel Salathé, President of the NRP 78 Steering Committee, gives his assessment of the current state of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has dominated the agenda for nearly the past year and a half. But thanks to the rapid development of highly effective mRNA vaccines, Switzerland is now slowly but surely moving into a new phase. Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists have been working tirelessly to understand the virus and its impact and, together with decision-makers from politics and society, to develop effective measures that can help mitigate the worst health effects. To this, NRP 78 "Covid-19" and its 28 research projects and 7 implementation projects are totally committed.

Today, from a health perspective, I am primarily concerned with two issues: Long Covid, and the Delta variant. When NRP 78 "Covid-19" was announced in spring 2020, Long Covid was not yet an issue. For this reason, there is no NRP 78 project specifically addressing this issue. While there is research that also looks at certain long-term consequences of Covid-19, Long Covid is a complex phenomenon with numerous aspects which in their entirety do not form a focus of NRP 78 "Covid-19". In the context of the implementation programme for NRP 78, which has just started, the research group of Onur Boyman at University Hospital Zurich is studying the topic of Post-acute Covid-19 Syndrome (PACS) along with the aspects of Long Covid. I was also very interested to learn that the National Council has adopted a motion on the scientific monitoring of Long Covid. Naturally, we are monitoring further developments in this area very closely.

The Delta variant has been in Switzerland for some time and has become the dominant variant here, as it has in most other countries. As it is even more infectious than the Alpha variant, the Delta variant presents us with major epidemiological challenges. Fortunately, vaccination protection with the mRNA vaccines used in Switzerland remains very high, though only after two doses. There will be a race between the spread of Delta and rising vaccination rates, because a variant that is more transmissible also requires a higher vaccination coverage for herd immunity to be achieved.