We have lived with COVID19 for almost a year now. Many of us are feeling tired of this now so when will the pandemic be over?
The WHO will declare the pandemic over once the infection is mostly contained and rates of transmission have significantly dropped throughout the world.
When that happens depends on what governments around the world will do. Will they race through it, delay and vaccinate or coordinate and crush.
Allowing people to be exposed to the disease as quickly as possible can mean hundreds of thousands of people will die. Hospitals will be overwhelmed and experts will not have the chance to study the disease. If people don’t die from the disease then they will survive by their bodies building up it’s own defenses to fight the disease. This is when herd immunity kicks in and the virus will fizzle out.
If the governments around the world slow the spread of the virus to give research facilities time to develop a vaccine, which is what has happened, then more lives will be saved. Tactics like widespread testing, identifying carriers and quarantining the infected and physical distancing will not stop the disease and deaths will still occur. Within in the next several years, several vaccines will become widely available thanks to a worldwide effort. Once 40%-90% of the population have been vaccinated, herd immunity kicks in and the pandemic fizzles out.
The idea of coordinate and crush is to simultaneously starve the virus everywhere. This is done through a combination of quarantine, physical distancing and restricting travel. The critical factor here is to synchronize responses. In a particular pandemic, when one country is peaking, another may be getting it’s first cases. Instead of every leader responding to what is happening in their jurisdiction then they must treat the world as the giant inter-connected system it is. If coordinated properly this can end the pandemic in just a few months with low loss of life. But unless the virus is completely eradicated, which is highly unlikely, then there is a risk of the pandemic rising once again.
So which strategy is best for this pandemic? Racing through it is a quick fix but would be a global catastrophe with a massive loss of life and may not work at all if people can be re-infected. Crushing the virus is only reliable with true and nearly impossible global cooperation. This is why vaccination assisted by as much global coordination as possible is generally considered to be the winner. It is the slow, steady and proven option to win the race.
The pandemic will end, it’s legacy will be long lasting but not all bad. We can learn from it so we can keep the next pandemic so contained that our grandchildren won’t even know it’s name.