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How the Covid pandemic could end – and what will make it happen faster

6 400 390
15.02.2021

Most people have already adjusted their expectations to a spring of disruption – but most are quietly hoping that by the summer, and into the autumn, life in the UK will have returned more or less to normal. Are they right to be confident? What can we do to avoid slipping back into a cycle of lockdowns? In short: how does this pandemic end, and how can we end it faster?

Globally, the UK is in the strong position of having at least five effective and safe vaccines, but there are major challenges ahead. We already know about variants, such as those arising in Kent, Brazil and South Africa, which are proving challenging in terms of being more transmissible, and having potentially more severe health outcomes in the case of the UK variant.

Even worse, continual mutation means that some of these variants, such as the Brazil and South Africa ones, as well as future variants, could evade both our vaccines and natural immune responses. The consequence would be our current vaccines being rendered less effective and the possibility of reinfection: having one version of Covid-19 doesn’t mean you can’t have another.

The terrain ahead is rocky, but we can chart a few safe routes. Richer countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, the UK and those in Europe have the option to pursue an elimination strategy through a mix of test, trace and isolate programmes; short and sharp lockdown restrictions to stop mixing; and, crucially, border measures to stop reimportation of new chains and variants. This would help end each country’s epidemic and be a step, country by country, towards better control and an end to the global pandemic.

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© The Guardian


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