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Virus understander and former Drosten associate Isabella Eckerle insists that Covid "is not finished with us" in ridiculous self-contradictory plea for everyone to stay worried

Perpetual Covid hystericist and former Christian Drosten associate Isabella Eckerle has condescended to put on her virus suit and grant an interview to Der Spiegel, in service of warning that “The virus is not yet finished with us.”

For one, there’s the scary new variant. No, not EG.5 or Eris, but BA.2.86:

So far we have only isolated evidence of the variant [BA.2.86], so we can only say a little. It’s astonishing how many mutations this new variant has – it differs genetically from Omicron about as much as Omicron differs from the previous variants. One suspects that BA.2.86 will have clear immune escape. This means that our antibodies will have difficulty recognising it. The question now is whether it will also be sufficiently fit, i.e. transmissible enough, and thus able to overtake the current variants. My assessment is: yes, we will soon see an increase. Then, I think, we could name BA.2.86 with the next letter in the Greek alphabet: Pi.

As I type this, only ten sequences of BA.2.86 are known. The last one was collected two weeks ago, on 14 August. Could it blow up to become the dominant variant? Sure. Is this more likely than the alternative, namely that BA.2.86 goes nowhere? I very much doubt it.

Spiegel: At the same time, a new omicron variant called EG.5 is circulating, which could be partly responsible for the current increase in the number of infections. Is SARS-CoV-2 really only as troublesome as a cold, but no longer particularly dangerous?

Eckerle: Four weeks ago I would have said that we’re probably through with the heavily mutated variants. The virus seemed to have exhausted almost everything, it kept resorting to the same evolutionary strategies, and the detections of SARS-CoV-2 had been stable at low levels for months. But now it’s happening again, we’re seeing more cases in the emergency room, more hospital admissions. But what is happening is not yet clear – the sequencing shows a wide mix of different variants, including EG.5, which is not yet so widespread in terms of percentage.

So, she thought we were done with ScARy nEw MuTAtIoNs, but then BA.2.86 happened along, and although it is infecting effectively nobody, cases are up and “it’s happening again” due to other variants that aren’t worrying and are just more of the same, so things are ominous again. Okay.

SPIEGEL: Does that mean that SARS-CoV-2 still doesn’t fit in with the normal cold viruses, as everyone hopes?

Eckerle: For me, SARS-CoV-2 is a category of its own, it’s neither a banal cold, nor can it be compared to influenza or RSV. It will continue to make certain groups seriously ill and cause complications; we still don't understand the mechanism behind it. Neither Long Covid nor the vascular and the neurological diseases caused by Corona are yet sufficiently understood. And I cannot see a stable condition so far. I think the virus is not yet finished with us …

We won’t get another variant that sets our immunity to zero. And we probably won’t have intensive care units full of Covid 19 pneumonia either. But the mixture of SARS-CoV-2, influenza, RSV and other seasonal respiratory viruses may well put a strain on the health system. We won’t see the very serious infections we saw at the beginning, but we will see a lot of infections in all population groups. This will lead to staff shortages, to bottlenecks in the clinic, in the practices, in the emergency room. And to people who get Long Covid.

SARS-2 may not cause serious disease, but it’s a magical virus that does all kinds of magical things! Things that are beyond our understanding! Also something something Long Covid! If you’re still not worried, think of all the other viruses! RSV! Flu! Shortages! Bottlenecks! Did I already mention Long Covid? Long Covid!

Then comes this astounding bit:

SARS-CoV-2 definitely doesn’t have seasonality at the moment. With influenza, it’s pretty clear when we have to vaccinate, when the wave comes, when it subsides and when things are quiet again. And what I find interesting is that the pandemic has also shaken up the other viruses. They have become much more unpredictable, for example last year we had an early influenza wave and a couple of atypical RSV waves in the warm season in children.

I don’t know what kind of strange intellectual bubble you have to live in, to claim that there is no Covid seasonality. If we tested for Covid like we test for flu – that is, vastly less – Covid would also appear to go “quiet” beyond the winter months. Substantial virus-associated mortality really only happens over the winter. If we tested for flu like we do for Covid – that is, at insane rates – we’d see all kinds of interesting patterns related to mild summer outbreaks and other things. Covid has been a markedly seasonal virus from the beginning.

Then an awkward moment:

Spiegel: In autumn, there will be a new, adapted Covid vaccine. How well will it protect us?

Eckerle: The previous vaccines all still targeted the original Wuhan virus. The idea behind the adapted vaccine is now that, since almost only derivatives of the Omicron XBB line are still circulating – EG.5 is one of them – the old Wuhan line has been removed to target viruses from the XBB line.

Spiegel: But with BA.2.86, could the booster fail because this new variant is no longer an XBB derivative?

Eckerle: We don’t have the data to assess that at the moment. But we should remember that our immunity consists not only of antibodies, but also of cellular immunity, and this is much more robust against mutated viruses. For the future, we need to think about how to develop vaccines that produce broad immunity, so that we are not always chasing the variants. The hope would then be that the virus would no longer find a gap in such a broad mix.

So, again just to keep this straight, we need to be worried because the ScARy NeW MuTATiOn BA.2.86, which is hardly infecting anyone right now. But we also need to get the next round of shiny new virus juice because the boring XBB-descended Eris is on the rise, even though Eckerle has just told us that Eris is not a ScARy NeW MuTAtIoN and therefore not much to worry about. Reminded that the vaccines don’t target BA.2.86 at all, Eckerle can suddenly remember that antibodies aren’t the only thing, although they’re the only thing the vaccinators ever want to measure. Cellular immunity matters too – you know, the cellular immunity everybody already has from all the virus exposures down to this point.

Eckerle, who can’t quite articulate what the new vaccines are for, and even says it would be “important to know” whether they “protect against complications like Long Covid,” is going to get in line for one, “because it’s mostly about protection from severe disease.” She is 42 and not clearly the member of any at-risk demographic. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced he’s getting dose number five as well, but he’s also made it clear that that’s all he plans to do:

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) sees no reason for renewed measures despite the fact that case numbers have been rising for weeks. “What we are experiencing now is the ‘new’ normality with Corona,” he told the newspapers of the Mediengruppe Bayern on Saturday. The situation today is “fortunately completely different than when the Corona pandemic broke out three and a half years ago.”

Despite all of the recent panic vaccine marketing, the pandemic is over with, and at least in Germany the restrictions aren’t coming back. Covid ideology was always stupid, but now that it’s lost access to the levers of power, it’s entered a state of advanced decay. Even high virus priestess Eckerle can no longer sort out what the jabs or for, what the threat is, or what she is even talking about.