"The idea that this is going to be done soon defies microbiology."
American experts have recently predicted that coronavirus will continue infecting people for another two years, citing past pandemics as a basis. In a report, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) chief Mike Osterholm said that COVID-19 will continue to spread worldwide until 60% to 70% of the global population contracts the virus.
Osterholm and his team listed at least three possible scenarios that may occur in the next two years, calling on world leaders to prepare for the worst by creating safety measures.
“This thing’s not going to stop until it infects 60 to 70 percent of people… The idea that this is going to be done soon defies microbiology,” Osterholm said in an interview with CNN.
Osterholm, along with other experts such as Harvard School of Public Health epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist Dr. Kristine Moore, and historian John Barry, said the reason behind the two-year projection is due to the fact the COVID-19 is a new strain of influenza and “no one has any immunity” from the virus.
The group further said that the pandemic will likely exist from 18 to 24 months, as herd immunity gradually develops in the human population.
The CIDRAC-led team came up with the estimate citing past reports and historical dates of the past pandemics, such as the Spanish Flu in 1918.
Lipsitch explained it is important for scientists to take past pandemics into account to be able to understand infectious diseases better.
“I have said for a long time that when you are trying to understand how infectious disease is going to unfold, you should rely on history as well as models,” Lipsitch added.
Lipsitch likewise contradicted past studies that the virus will die down in the summer. He stressed that such instance is unlikely, because COVID-19 can be compared to a pandemic strain of influenza – not like a seasonal flu.
Lipsitch explained that COVID-19 has a longer incubation period resulting into asymptomatic cases infecting other people. He also warned that with higher RO strain, coronavirus can spread easily compared to seasonal flu. In their report that they wrote, RO means the average number of other people infected by each patient.
“A higher RO means more people will need to get infected and become immune before the pandemic can end,” said the report.
As of this writing, 3.6-million people have been infected by the coronavirus worldwide, while 251,000 have died from the disease.
The group of experts then called on all world leaders, particularly the United States, to prepare for the three worst possible scenarios. They also suggested that the government should stop assuring people that the pandemic will end soon.
Here are the three possible scenarios, according to the team:
Scenario 1: The first wave of COVID-19 during the spring season this year will be followed by a series of repetitive but fewer waves which is expected to happen in summer. Such scenario will consistently continue over one to two-year period time and will slowly decrease by 2021.
Scenario 2: The first outbreak of COVID-19 will be followed by a “larger wave” of coronavirus during the fall or winter season, and one or more smaller waves in 2021. Scenario 2, the experts said, is similar to what was seen during the Spanish flu pandemic between 1918 and 1919.
They suggested that government should restore its strong mitigation measures in fall and winter in order to minimize the overwhelming spread of the virus.
Scenario 3: A “slow burn” of continuous transmission. The spread might be slow, but deaths from the virus around the world will continue to happen.
They then encouraged government officials around the world to prepare for this scenario and create concrete plans, including measures about when to reinstitute mitigation efforts and how to handle the spike of the disease.
Both Lipsitch and Osterholm admitted that they were both surprised by the recent decision of most states to lift restriction orders. They criticized it and said such decision is a dangerous experiment that would likely cost many lives.
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