Could The Scientist Be Able To Eliminate The Novel Coronavirus Outbreak
With confirmed cases of Covid-19 globally exceeding 1 million and more countries going into lockdown to slow the pandemic, the emerging question is: “When will this all end?” The answer depends in large part on uncertainties about the novel coronavirus that causes the disease, including whether you can get it more than once and how quickly the world’s scientists might produce a vaccine. It is clear the current strategy of shutting down large parts of society is not sustainable in the long-term. The social and economic damage would be catastrophic.
In reality, Sars-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus, escaped the public health interventions of the Chinese government and spread across the world. As other governments fumbled in their early responses, the virus silently rippled through communities, infecting many people and hospitalising and killing some. The virus is remarkably dangerous – it spreads as easily as a cold or flu, even via individuals who don’t have any visible symptoms, and the latest data shows that roughly 5% of people who become infected will require hospitalisation.
Among them, 30% will be admitted to ICU. An estimated 0.6-1.4% of those who contract the virus will die. Without tight restrictions, it would be faster yet come at a steep cost in illness and deaths as health systems would be overburdened. Some research assumes the actual number of infections is much higher than the confirmed cases. If that’s true, countries are closer to herd immunity than we know.
Five months ago, no one knew that SARS-CoV-2 existed. Now the virus has spread to almost every country, infecting at least 2,768,062 people dated 24 April 2020, whom we know about, and many more whom we do not. It has crashed economies and broken health-care systems, filled hospitals and emptied public spaces. It has separated people from their workplaces and their friends. It has disrupted modern society on a scale that most living people have never witnessed.
For many countries, the strategy is to lock down movement to dramatically slow the spread, closing businesses and schools, banning gatherings and keeping people at home. The idea is to prevent a huge burst of infections that overwhelms the medical system, causing excessive deaths as care is rationed.
The best guess is a vaccine could still be 12 to 18-months away if everything goes smoothly. That is a long time to wait when facing unprecedented social restrictions during peacetime. “Flattening the curve” staggers cases over a longer period of time and buys authorities and health. People would continue to be encouraged to keep at a distance from one another, and those at high risk would be advised to limit their time in public. If cases begin to rise again, restrictions would be tightened.
Authoritarian countries such as China can impose stricter controls on movement and more intrusive means of surveillance, such as house-to-house fever checks, tracing and enforcement of quarantines, and are less vulnerable to pressure from businesses and popular opinion. But there is a question mark over whether this immunity will last.
To contain such a pathogen, nations must develop a test and use it to identify infected people, isolate them, and trace those they’ve had contact with. Other coronaviruses, which cause common cold symptoms, lead to a very weak immune response and people can catch the same bug multiple times in their lifetime. That gives them powerful tools to keep the virus in check, so long as they are vigilant against imported cases.
While waiting for the vaccine, countries would try to delay the spread of the virus over the next 12-18 months through intermittent lockdowns. Health authorities would need to anticipate, three weeks in advance, whether there are enough beds, ventilators and staffing to treat those infected.
We could get lucky, and the virus could fade with the onset of summer in the northern hemisphere, where most cases are, just like outbreaks of influenza subside with seasonal changes. But it remains unknown whether warmer weather will play a role. We still don’t know what percentage of the world’s population has already been exposed to the virus. Without a reliable antibody test that can identify whether someone has had the virus and are likely to be immune, it’s unclear how many people are carrying the virus but not showing symptoms. The role of children in transmission is also unclear; children are neither immune nor seem to be heavily affected. Even if the outbreak wanes, it could return in the fall. Some are pinning their hopes on an ultra-effective therapy or a cure.