The biggest question today is: How and When will the Coronavirus epidemic completely finish? The following are the key factors that seem to hold the answers.
India recorded 96,426 new coronavirus infections on September 18, bringing its cumulative count to 5.22 million. Since the beginning of August, the country has had the highest single-day caseload in the world, which astounded the country.
In the upcoming weeks, we may surpass the United States as the country with the most infections (rather than deaths). As of September 18, India had 84,373 deaths due to highly contagious disease, and the country has been continued to report more than 1,005 Covid-19 deaths every day.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 or coronavirus infection has disrupted and wrecked the economy of India and triggered a surge of mental health issues. Activities such as cinema halls, schools, colleges, and international flights are closed till date.
Globally, COVID-19 cases have exceeded 31 million, including 1.2 million deaths, and the coronavirus epidemic is showing no signs of slowing down. Therefore, the biggest question in most people’s minds is: How and When will this health crisis end?
How Pandemics End Usually
Let us first consider this fundamental enigma. The epidemic can have three types of epilogues.
1. Medical: When the infection stop spreading and there are no more deaths or patients.
2. Social: When people exhaust their stress, anxiety, depression and reach the stage of “Jo Hoga, Dekha Jayega” or start to accept the new normal while following the safety protocol. This is happening now.
3. Type Three: When the government feels and believes that everything that must be done to end the epidemic has been completed.
Here is a piece from the history, for perspective. The deadliest epidemic in modern history is the Spanish flu, which caused more than 450 million infections in three waves and caused over 30 million deaths worldwide between 1918 and 1920. The flu virus emerged into a seasonal bed bug with extremely low lethality. Endemic, but controllable.
How The Ending Can Be Accomplished
Although lockdown is expected to confine the coronavirus infection, measures such as wear masks/face covering, hand hygiene, and social distancing can only slow down its spread. Of course, contact tracing, isolation, testing, and treatment are remarkably crucial to save lives and reduce disruptions, but finding long-term solutions is another ballgame.
Everyone is paying attention to herd immunity. It is assumed that only after approximately 60% of the population has been vaccinated (or infected) can the epidemic be controlled within a certain period of time.
Good news: Like many countries, India is very likely to underestimate its Covid-19 cases. If so, herd immunity is greater than suggested by the current assessment.
Bad news: The hypothesis of “herd immunity by infection” may not be completely correct. Even the terrible epidemic outbreaks in London and New York City did not result in sufficient immunity.
So, When Will the Pandemic End?
This is difficult. There are multiple conflicting predictions.
- Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO), predicted in May that it will take four to five years to control the pandemic.
- The head of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in August that the pandemic may end within two years.
- Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, has now said that the coronavirus epidemic will end by the end of 2021.
When will the Vaccine come?
Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, apprised Parliament on Thursday that the vaccine for coronavirus treatment may be developed by early 2021, but it will take a long time to be made available to the citizens in huge quantities. This is a tricky area.
A senior official from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare told: Before that, people must maintain physical distancing, hand hygiene, and wear masks. The number of coronavirus cases is on the rise, but the main reason for the rise is the increase in testing.
According to an optimistic assessment, India will carry out a mass vaccination at the end of 2021, but not everyone is so optimistic. Swaminathan predicts that by 2022, there will not be enough vaccines to completely return life to normal.
The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India’s chief executive, Adar Poonawalla has worse news. He told the Financial Times that there will not be enough coronavirus vaccines available for everyone in the world to be inoculated until the end of 2024 at the earliest.
The Vaccine Challenges
An official from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare told: Even vaccines that are effective, safe, affordable, and available for everyone may not provide permanent immunity. We may need to be vaccinated periodically.
In May, Swaminathan said that vaccines seem to be the best way out, but this is not a panacea and silver bullet.
General Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary also issued a warning on Thursday. He said: Many people have high expectations for vaccines, but we have to be clear: There is no cure for a pandemic. Vaccines alone cannot solve this health crisis; of course, it cannot be resolved in the short term.
Authorities need to expand new and existing tools on a large scale that can deal with new cases and provide critical treatment to curb the transmission and save lives, especially in the next 12 months, he said.
Experts also say that viral mutations may render the vaccine ineffective. After all, there are already vaccines against more than a dozen of human viruses, but only smallpox has been eradicated. H1N1 swine flu broke out in 2009. But it has not disappeared yet.
One just hopes and prays that the pandemic COVID-19 will disappear and not become an endemic!