The world learned about a new virus unknown to science at the end of last year. However, we all underestimated him a little. So, even though we at the editorial office of Hi-News.ru write a lot about SARS-CoV-2, I somehow felt quite uncomfortable only recently. I think this is due to the realization of the inevitability of the coming shocks and changes - after all, the world will not be the same. Of course, the pandemic will end sooner or later, but no one knows how events will unfold in the future. We can only make assumptions based on known information. And while we diligently wash our hands and sew protective masks in self-isolation, scientists are trying to predict how this most difficult global crisis will end. So, according to the researchers, there are several possible scenarios for the end of the pandemic of the new coronavirus. We talk about each of them in detail in this article.
At the time of this writing, the number of people infected with the new CoVID-19 coronavirus in the world has exceeded a million people and this figure continues to grow. The disease claims thousands of lives every day, and epidemiologists say the peak incidence is yet to come. However, in this difficult time, it is very important to stay calm and follow all the recommendations of the World Health Organization - observe social distancing, wash your hands thoroughly and stay at home. Keep in mind that the way we spend the coming months will affect the state of immunity, which is the only weapon against the new coronavirus, at least until an effective vaccine is invented. At the same time, it is very difficult to live in complete obscurity, and listening to all sorts of obscurantists who call the exact date of the end of the pandemic is simply dangerous. Therefore, we propose to get acquainted with the realistic scenarios predicted by scientists. The main thing to remember is that all these scenarios may turn out to be false, since all of us - and scientists too - tend to make mistakes, and no one knows the future.
Why has the coronavirus outbreak not been contained?
The first and most popular move to end any epidemic is to contain it. If the number of cases is limited by the location of the outbreak, and people who leave the epicenter do not infect people in other countries and cities, then the spread of infection will be minimal. Therefore, before the COVID-19 outbreak was officially recognized as a pandemic, it was possible to geographically localize it. However, this possibility disappeared along with the first reports of the spread of coronavirus in Europe and North America in February. As scientists from Johns Hopkins University reported, once it was established that the virus spreads effectively between people, it became clear that it was impossible to contain it.
1. Natural decline in morbidity
As dire as a pandemic may seem today, there is always the possibility that the number of new cases can naturally decrease. Researchers attribute this to a variety of factors, as other coronaviruses and influenza viruses often retreat naturally when the weather gets warmer. So, according to a recently put forward hypothesis, SARS-CoV-2 does not survive well in wetter conditions, although this information has not yet been confirmed. The incidence of the new coronavirus may also decrease as the virus will infect those most susceptible to it. According to epidemiologist Joshua Epstein of New York University, it usually happens that enough susceptible people become infected with the virus, but then the chain of infections naturally fades away. However, in small populations this happens faster, and in the event of a pandemic, the process can take several months.
2. Transition from pandemic to endemic
Endemic - the constant presence of a disease (more often infectious) in a certain area
According to the second scenario, the SARS-CoV-2 virus will become endemic to humans. This means that it will turn into a habitual “seasonal illness” like SARS and flu. Having passed through a pandemic, the virus may well remain in the human population, turning into a seasonal respiratory disease. This opinion is shared by epidemiologist Stephen Morse of Columbia University.
His colleague Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota also believes that COVID-19 may well become another seasonal pathogen that causes pneumonia. After all, the only pathogen the new coronavirus can be compared to is seasonal flu. And he, as we all know perfectly well, comes back every year.
Disinfection of streets and buildings all over the world today is already a familiar picture.
3. Containment of the spread of the virus by countermeasures
Putting an end to the coronavirus pandemic can be slowed down by treating infected people in hospitals and at home. Experts call this scenario “flattening the curve” - roughly speaking, we all do not leave the house today to buy time and reduce the burden on the health care system. Such a response will help bring the pandemic-to-endemic transition closer. But if the spread is not slowed down, this will lead not only to an increase in deaths, but also to an increase in new cases of the disease.
4. Development of a vaccine against coronavirus
Making a vaccine is a very complex and time-consuming process that takes a long time - 12 to 18 months or more. But even if the vaccine can be obtained in the near future, it is important to understand that vaccination helps prevent illness before someone gets infected. Its main goal is to prevent future outbreaks of the disease. Epidemiologist Mark Lipsich of Harvard University estimates that 40% to 70% of people worldwide can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 within a year. And if most of the people in the world are exposed to the virus, giving them the vaccine may not be very helpful. Read more about who is working on the manufacture of the vaccine and when it will appear in our material.
The new coronavirus can be eradicated simply by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Scenarios are like potential storylines. What actually happens depends on a huge number of factors, so it is incredibly difficult to predict the exact course of events. There are more questions than answers regarding CoVID-19 today. So, we learn about the effectiveness of social distancing only after a while, the same applies to the development of a vaccine and effective antiviral drugs. All we can do now is acknowledge the fact that the future cannot be predicted, but we can try to control the number of new cases and not let fear rule us. This is indeed a difficult time for all of us, but the best we can do is limit the number of contacts and follow the WHO guidelines.