Viral load cannot be equated with symptom severity, cats are not super spreaders, and the further course of the pandemic is difficult to assess.

The listeners to an evening of talks with virologist Sandra Ciesek were able to take away these and other findings about Corona on Thursday.

In the "Wissenschaft im Dialog" series, which is organized by the FAZ, the Polytechnische Gesellschaft and the Historische Villa Metzler gGmbH, she spoke to FAZ editor Sascha Zoske about the lessons of the two-year pandemic.

The current pandemic is difficult to compare with the Spanish flu, which raged around the world from 1918 to 1920 and claimed the lives of around 50 million people, Ciesek said.

At that time, there was hardly any intensive care medicine, and secondary infections were far more difficult to treat.

Nevertheless, the Covid crisis is also an event of the century.

Ciesek is cautious with forecasts about the further course.

"No one knows"

She is always amazed when she hears from colleagues that only milder or, conversely, much more dangerous virus variants are to be expected.

"The honest answer is: nobody knows." She is critical of the expression "killer variant", which Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) recently used with a view to a possible combination of the virus types omicron and delta.

She would not use such a term, said the scientist - after all, it is not a "technical term".

It is probably impossible to completely contain the virus, says the director of the Institute for Medical Virology at the Frankfurt University Hospital.

A certain basic immunity in the population, whether through vaccination, recovery or both, will hopefully make Covid-19 less dangerous.

New drugs such as Paxlovid, a protease inhibitor that blocks an important viral enzyme, could help.

This can significantly reduce the viral load, which can prevent severe courses in people with a weakened immune system, for example.

However, Paxlovid has strong side effects and interactions, which is why the benefits and risks have to be weighed against each other in individual cases.

According to Ciesek, an annual booster of the vaccination could be useful.

As with influenza, an adapted vaccine against the seasonally circulating variants is conceivable, said the professor.

Studies from Great Britain suggested that the development of the pandemic would be difficult to assess for at least a year and a half.

Research underestimated the mutation ability of the pathogen.

However, it is also possible that the virus will develop into a harmless pathogen of influenza infections.

Ciesek is cautiously optimistic about the coming months.

“Of course everyone is fed up with the pandemic.

But it is still true that it is not over yet.” If a new variant does not suddenly develop, people could hope for a reasonably relaxed summer.

In her own words, Ciesek remains cautious: she continues to wear a mask indoors and on public transport.