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When will the coronavirus pandemic end?

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  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes that the country can kick the virus out after 12 weeks.
  • Scientists believe otherwise, saying that it’s impossible to put timelines on when things can get back to normal.
  • Experts will have to watch and see how other countries are handling the pandemic.

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has instructed pregnant women and people over the age of 70 to self-isolate at home for 12 weeks in a bid to combat the rise of the coronavirus cases. He also advised the general public to practice social distancing, work from home if possible, and do away with non-essential travel.

But does the UK government really expect the coronavirus to disappear after 12 weeks? Although Johnson believes that they can “turn the tide” in three months, he hasn’t been specific on how this can be achieved.

When will things go back to normal?
Boris Johnson believes that the UK can “turn the tide” after just 12 weeks.

Sir Patrick Vallance, UK’s chief scientific advisor, thinks differently. He said that “putting absolute timelines on things is not possible.” Other ways of dealing with the outbreak, such as herd immunity, will take a longer time to work, say, a year.

Dr Simon Clarke, professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, agrees. He says that “It is impossible to put a date on it. If anyone tells you a date they are staring into a crystal ball. The reality is that it will be with us forever because it has spread now.”

Herd immunity can take a longer time to happen.

The challenge lies in the fact that the virus can live in one’s body without showing symptoms and that person can easily spread it. Clarke says that he sees no reason why the disease will not continue to behave like this in the future.

Making estimates is difficult, according to Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at Southampton University. It’s because the coronavirus is a novel virus and that making predictions or modelling is hard, especially as the scale of the pandemic is considered.

Head said he hopes that cases can be limited in the next few months and can be “reduced to much lower levels.” But with the winter coming, there is natural concern about the cases increasing again.

There is also the question of whether lockdowns can actually reduce the spread. Dr Jenna Macciochi, a lecturer in immunology at the University of Sussex, says it will depend on how the measures are taken up by people. But she added that even then, there are no guarantees.

Clarke also pointed out that developing a working vaccine is the key to combating the virus. “That is what is going to control things. We can develop ways of controlling symptoms too but they only treat, they don’t get rid of it.”

Scientists all over the world are racing to develop a vaccine.

But it’s not as simple as giving vaccines to enough people in the population and let herd immunity to develop to halt the spread of the virus. Any old immune response will not do, says Clarke. The body will have to “generate an immune response that is protective enough.”

As for other solutions, the UK has to watch and wait to see how other countries will handle the pandemic, according to Macciochi.

“I believe things are starting to get better in China and [we] can look to other viruses for clues, but it is spreading quicker than similar viruses so looking inevitable that it will be sticking around for a while,” she added.

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