Due to an increasingly efficient vaccination rollout and natural immunity, COVID-19 cases are declining in many countries. Nevertheless, the world has changed and so have testing, vaccination, hygiene, and travel standards. To exchange ideas about these changes, GABA hosted a panel discussion with business, educational, and medical leaders this week on Wednesday, May 26th, 2021.
Johannes Frühauf moderated the discussion and kicked it off by asking how the speakers prepare for a future with the lingering threat of COVID-19. Ian Law, CIO at San Francisco International Airport, explained that airports generally need to follow rules and requirements set by the federal government. COVID-19 measures in the travel industry are very fluid and their implementation time-consuming because each country has different and constantly changing travel and entry requirements. Moving forward, just like the security measures which were put into place after 9/11, Ian hopes that the world agrees on global standards relating to COVID-tests, masks, and vaccination-passports.
Regarding the reopening of schools and universities, Kathrin Röschel, Head of German International School of Silicon Valley, told the audience that at her institution teachers get tested for COVID-19 once a week and students every other week. This testing model has proven to be an effective method in avoiding COVID-19 infections at school. Furthermore, now that the infrastructure has been established, testing can be adopted as needed and schools are better prepared to meet the potential challenges that could come with a new COVID-19 variant or a different dangerous virus.
Lisa Regan explained that Bayer Healthcare uses a mix of measures to keep employees safe at the workplace. Employees who do not have to work from the office, may work from home. Moreover, strict social distancing, hygiene, and mask rules were implemented to keep the on-site workforce safe. In addition, employees are tested every week (at the beginning of the pandemic via PCR tests and now via antigen tests). This led to the detection of 60 asymptomatic cases and zero on-site transmissions – proving that Bayer’s testing method is an effective tool to keep Bayer’s employees safe.
In this context, Galit Alter, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, informed the audience that a combination of different testing methods (PCR, antigen, antibodies) is the most effective way to detect infections and potential transmission probabilities. Thus, researchers are working on the development of combined tests. However, Galit emphasized, getting vaccinated is the best way to fight the pandemic.