It is only natural that millions of people are waiting with bated breath for the pandemic to die out. People from across the globe are confined to their homes and are maintaining social distancing till the lockdown is lifted. However, a Harvard research shows that people might need to practice some level of social distancing intermittently till 2022.
A group of Harvard disease researchers said on Tuesday that social distancing might be required till two years from now to prevent a resurgence of coronavirus. The report titled 'Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period' authored by Stephen M Kissler, Christine Tedijanto, Edward Goldstein, Yonatan H Grad and Marc Lipsitch said that lifting social distancing measures all at once could only delay the pandemic's peak and make it potentially more severe.
The researchers stated that the course of coronavirus depends on a few unanswered questions including if seasons impact the virus' spread, what immunity would people who suffered from the disease have, will exposure to coronavirus provide any protection against the COVID-19 pathogen.
Governments are now feeling the pressure of loosening the lockdown restrictions. However, norms can only be relaxed if measures to control the disease are implemented, including widespread testing.
The researchers used computer models to come up with possible scenarios. One scenario is that following strict social distancing and intensive public health work eradicates the virus, something that happened with SARS-CoV-1 in 2003. However, the researchers do not believe that the same could happen with COVID-19 as the numbers have crossed 2 million.
The study says that it is likely that the coronavirus is here to stay much like the influenza. It could move around the globe seasonally. In one of the scenarios the researchers examined, they found that 20 weeks of measures could be followed by an epidemic peak resulting in a crisis that is as good as an uncontrolled spread. If the virus is more potent in colder months, then pushing the peak to autumn would only put strain on health care systems.
The Harvard researchers then advocated on-and-off social distancing measures till 2022. This will be required unless vaccines are developed or hospital capacity is increased.
The researchers also advocated identifying likely trajectories of the pandemic.
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