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When will the COVID-19 pandemic end?


COVID-19 has changed the entire world into a terrifying ground where the people are afraid to have a casual hand-shake. This has brought the limitation of social gatherings to achieve the main goal which is to halt the deadly spread of COVID-19. In the present context, the very common question of every person at the moment is “When will the COVID-19 pandemic end?” or “Is there any chance will the pandemic come to an end?”

The prolonging lockdown has not only disturbed the normal lifestyle but also affected the whole world adversely health-wise, economic-wise, and education-wise. Due to the lockdown, it seems like the whole system of the universe is on stand-by mode.

In other words, the disease has unified all the countries as well as parted from each other. Unified in meaning, every nation of the whole world is fighting against COVID-19 spread and bringing strategies to prevent the spread followed with a common goal. At the same time, Parted with the sense that traveling to different corners of the world has been completely banned to avoid any chance of transmission as the only way is SOCIAL DISTANCING.

According to historians, there are typically two types of endings of pandemics: the first one is medical, which occurs when the incidence rates and the death rates will plummet and the second is the social that happens when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes. But some historians have opinions away from these two types of endings which is a sociopolitical process.


A glimpse of black deaths in the past

Fear of getting ill or dying is the most vulnerable feeling at such a pandemic. When the spread started, people were anxious about the disease. Many questions were asked to health workers who were speechless at that moment as there were no answers. When the answer was found, it was so dreadful resulting in rocketing number of morbidities followed by mortalities.

Peeking into the past will show us a world where no modernized weapons were present during the devastating outbreaks. H1N1 influenza outbreak of 1918-1919 is the most popular instance. There were fewer options for treatment and medications back then. The doctors and other public health officials were tied down to limitations of control measures and treatment modalities. The closures of the school were the only effective controlling measure that was then implemented resulting in more than 500 million pandemic infections and a range of deaths between 50 million and 100 million.

H2N2 kicked in 1957, as a newer strain of H1N1 became endemic as a seasonal virus. The H1N1 virus was kicked out – how? Nobody knows. The only reply we got from Virologist Florian Krammer of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City is “Nature can do it, we cannot.”

Likewise, another hit was SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003 which was a Coronavirus, not an influenza virus. During this time, the isolation and quarantines were so immediately implemented that the aggressiveness of SARS was brought to an end with limitations to few places like Toronto and Hong Kong. The containment resulted in a positive effect and result as the chances of transmission were minimized by the timely identification followed by isolation with good infection control. Most of the patients with SARS were not contagious until the symptoms appeared. By this, the doctors and public health officials were able to keep those with symptoms into immediate isolation. This was so effectively ended resulting in 8,098 SARS cases globally with 774 deaths.


Is the Vaccine powerful?

There are many pieces of evidence that vaccines are powerful that have been proven effective to eliminate and terminate some deadly virus epidemics and pandemics. The most potential vaccine was Smallpox which has actually achieved a medical end successfully. There is no animal host to it, which is also the reason for the successful elimination of Smallpox from the world. The last traced case was Ali Maow Maalin who was a hospital cook by profession in Somalia in 1977 who later died of Malaria in 2013. The lifelong immunity of smallpox vaccines has made this world free of smallpox. Similarly, another vaccine power was demonstrated during the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009 as swine flu. The good luck about the quick end of this epidemic was the less pathogenicity and efficiency of the vaccine developed which made the virus disappeared within a period of six months.

Without any development of a vaccine or any other effective medication as a cure for COVID-19, the world might have to live and adjust to the existence of COVID-19. Immunity is the only key to stay away from this pandemic.


What is R0 (R-nought)? How does it describe the immunity to COVID-19?

The simple math here is higher immunity, quicker ending to an outbreak. If one infection causes, on average, three others, then two-thirds of the total population needs to be immune for the outbreak to culminate. R0 (pronounced as R-nought) is a variable that determines the reproductive number of a virus. It keeps on changing depending upon the environment, the behavior of people, and the different backgrounds i.e. hand-washing, wearing masks, coughing or sneezing into the flexed elbow, maintaining social distancing, etc.

Not everyone is at equal risk of infecting the virus but everyone is susceptible. Be immune first to catch the virus and spread the infection. Herd immunity is a careful way to decrease the number of new infections.

Scientists say, “Social distancing is the effective measure so far until the development of a vaccine". It might take a year or two to build population immunity up in order for the virus to stop running on its own”. But nobody can predict the end of the virus as some people would abide by the social distancing policy and just be gone by. That is why, unless there is community transfer, the coronavirus is spreading. Hence, there is a high probability that the world will have to live with the stubborn Coronavirus for decades before it is put to an end. There will come a saturation point but the end is still unknown.


Does it mean lockdown will be continued for years?

At this crisis, thinking insanely is normal. Lockdown will be discontinued when everyone will understand the significance of social distancing and maintaining hygiene. Immunity differs from person to person. Some might catch early, some late and some may not. But this doesn’t conclude that lockdown will be haunting for years.

The massive global campaign of masking, regular testing for COVID-19, contact tracing, and immediate isolation or quarantine of suspected cases and their contacts are being carried out. This actually has reduced the transmission to a greater extent and will surely bring life back to normal in the near future. Staying optimistic, being cautious, and support to each other will contribute to the human race ending this global pandemic. Stay home, stay safe. Maintain social distancing. Wash hands.


Reality is crucial but the present context is to embrace the virus until there is a cure. The question here is “How to survive in a safe environment with the existence of a virus?”

Stamping out COVID-19 from the entire world possibly could take decades. Patience, cooperation, and coordination will help to combat the pandemic. The main question is “will it be safe in the environment co-existing with the virus?” The answer to it is with us. Yes, there is no guarantee that everyone might be able to deal with the virus but it is also possible to defy the virus as much as possible following the basic rules of hygiene and sanitation.

Washing hands with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Maintaining a distance of at least 3 to 6 feet. Avoid gatherings or crowds in public places. Cover the mouth while sneezing or coughing. Throw the used tissues or napkins into closed dustbins. Daily exercise and utilize the time will boost up mental as well as physical health.


Psychosocial issues?

Staying at home for a long period of time might be boring and annoying. This has brought many psychosocial issues which is why nowadays many counseling and motivating videos, calls via phone, or social apps have been brought and proven effective to reduce such issues. Depression and anxiety are the common problems that have been reported and will go away eventually with the virus as soon as this pandemic ends. But there is a chance, some people will be dealing with trauma, stress, and fear for some period of time as the coping mechanism of each individual varies. Psychosocial recovery is very important.


Any signs of victory over COVID-19?

The victory over the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be a long and difficult process. There is no fixed and determined strategy to fight COVID-19 but as soon as the vaccine is manufactured and a green signal is provided by the FDA, this virus will be defeated. The only strong strategy is to stay alert, stay protected, and limit contacts. 

Author: Step on Himalaya

Date: 15th May, 2020