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At leasts in some European countries, the number of respiratory (non-covid) infectious diseases on children this term is higher than last year and similar to pre-pandemic years in spite of social distance and use of masks. On the other hand, we are seeing how covid variants more infectious are appearing. So my question is: is the use of masks (or social distancing) increasing (from the point of view of natural selection) the (already) higher advantage of more infectious respiratory viruses? At a first sight, it seems to me that the answer is no, but I'm not an expert, and I wonder if this has been studied. In other terms: are we sure that we are not making (with social distance measures) current respiratory viruses (such as influenza) more infectious?

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    $\begingroup$ can you link to the sources indicating the general increase in respiratory illnesses? For influenza in the USA at least this appears to be the opposite of the case (I know that you mentioned Europe, but it's hard to imagine that it's so decoupled): cdc.gov/flu/weekly/weeklyarchives2020-2021/week53.htm (ILINet chart comparing flu seasons). Some flu strains are thought to have effectively gone extinct due to COVID safety measures: webmd.com/lung/news/20211025/… $\endgroup$ Jan 3 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ It's an interesting idea. I suspect the figures for an increase might be as much to do with alert parents being liable to report trivial sniffles more than before - that being said - if you can provide a bit more info to say where you got the figure and how it was worked out (if available) then we'll be in a better position to judge. $\endgroup$ Jan 4 at 4:03

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