By Pemil Peduru
(Lanka-e-News -19.April.2020, 10.45PM) Current COVID-19 viral pandemic has been the one terrible thing on all of our minds since the start of 2020. At the beginning, it seemed like an isolated incident in China, but very quickly developed into a worldwide disaster, infecting at the time of this writing in April 19, 2020, more than a 2,3 Million people in 185 Countries and 161,330 deaths in total "officially". It is physically impossible to go to any reputable news source and not be bombarded with anxiety inducing headlines about the latest infection numbers and the death toll. The question has probably crossed everyone’s mind. “Isn't there more we can do how and when is this nightmare likely to end”. Based on the current data and the opinions of the world's leading experts we can try to find out some answers to those questions. Science writer Eddie Young, who wrote an article over two years ago, explaining why a global pandemic was basically unavoidable, has said that there are three potential ways the pandemic can come to an end. The unlikely way, the dangerous way, and the along way. Young stated that the unlikely way would involve all the world's nations suddenly start cleaning up simultaneously getting their viral situations under control through a mix of strong quarantine measures and mass-testing rollouts, much like in 2003 SARS outbreak.
Considering how far the situation has escalated already, in the poor job many major world powers have done in both preparing for and then controlling the spread, of this scenario feels more like a pipe dream than a viable choice. Take the US as an example, one of the most developed and prosperous nations in the world, which has become the new global epicentre of the pandemic. All predictive models created prior to the actual pandemic showed that the US would quickly be able to create and widely distribute an affective viral test, which is the foundation of any successful pandemic response. The US has not done that testing widely enough as of today and it does still not look to have a plan in place for making tests available to a large segment of the population. While Italy and Spain have been ravaged by COVID-19, for the US, the worst is yet to come. Yes, the US has a much higher population than Italy, but fewer hospital beds per capita. Many models predict that deaths and infections will peak in end of April, possibly overloading the healthcare system, but this model relies on the assumption that all Americans will be observing quarantine or social distancing measures properly. At the time, President Trump has not ordered a national quarantine, in fact he is asking states governors to stop the shutdown states via Twitter, and many US citizens still are not taking the social distancing measures seriously. In other words, things seem bad now, but an even worse disaster is coming down the track.
The second possibility for how the COVID-19 pandemic might end is also the fastest, but it would also come with horrific costs on the global population. We have already heard the term “herd immunity” thrown today around lately. This refers to allowing the infection to spread (either intentionally or not), with the assumption that those who recover will develop the proper antibodies to fight off the virus and become immune, protecting the overall population. This is essentially the epidemiological equivalent of allowing a fire to burn itself out. The problem with this kind of approaches is that allowing a fire to burn itself out will often leave the world with little left to burn. If this approach were taken as the UK government initially intended to do, millions would die in the US alone, with tens of millions worldwide.
The third scenario is the most realistic, and it will cause the least collateral damage to human life, but that also means it will be far longer before society as we know, will return to normal. The general idea is that will have to continue keeping up social distancing and quarantine measures, putting greater focus on areas where outbreaks flare up, until an effective vaccine can be developed. It will basically be like treating the outbreak as whole in the same way as one would treat a single case of COVID-19. Which also means treating the condition symptomatically while the immune system fights off the disease. While this might seem straight forward on paper, it is quite an intense process. Not only will infections continue to occur across the globe during this elongated period, many vulnerable people will die as a result. Sadly, the fact that more people will die as a result of COVID-19 is inevitable at this point. The key at this stage is minimising how many of those deaths occur. The actual creation of a vaccine will also take quite some time. The full coverage of development, testing, factoring and distribution, will likely take from a year to 18 months. During that time it is inevitable, that the world economy will take a considerable hit as a result of increased consumer caution under social distancing measures. Goldman Sachs recently forecasted that there would be a 6.2% decline in US GDP alone as a result of the outbreak, the biggest drop since the Great Depression in 1930s. Experts state that there won't be two years of continuous lockdown. It will be more like several burst-periods of social distancing time to time in various places. The legacy of COVID-19 is likely to linger over the world for years to come, with millions of people losing their friends and family members, as a result of the disease. Though the legacy will be considerably less morbid under this method than under an attempt at “herd immunity”.
Just when and how exactly COVID-19 will end though, depends on two factors, which scientists don't fully understand just yet. That is virus’s seasonality and duration of the immunity. Many viruses such as the flu and common cold are seasonal, which means that they have the tendency to abate during the summer months. Whether or not the same applies to COVID-19 will make a huge difference to the pandemic. The same can be said for the duration of the immunity, which means how long a person retains the antibodies for natural immunity after first being infected. Because the seasonal flu and common cold mutate so frequently, and the duration of immunity is relatively low. Typically, less than a year. The SARS coronavirus of 2003, which was more severe and deadly, had a considerably longer duration of immunity. IF we as a species are lucky, COVID-19 will have a longer duration of immunity more like SARS than the common cold, but for now, we can only wait for scientists to collect the appropriate data. In the end, the COVID-19 virus will only be defeated by outlasting it and attempting to minimise the damage it can do to the people and society in the meantime.
There is no magic silver bullet to solve the situation. But we can use our conscientious and responsible personal choices mixed with sensible government policy and vaccine development. When the COVID-19 problem finally subsides, most likely either in late 2021 or early 2022, we will probably have to deal with a barrage of secondary problems. From a shattered or fully transformed economy to an international pandemic for mental health disorders like PTSD. But for now, while solutions are still being developed by the world governments, it is probably smartest for you to focus on keeping yourself safe. Remember to keep you another safe from COVID-19, your best bet is to socially isolate yourself and maintain good hygiene. The rest is out of our hands.
by (2020-04-19 18:27:27)
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