GUEST COLUMN: Dr. N. Prabhudev
Removing the mask mandates is not the end of the Pandemic
Get your vaccine, get your booster, protect yourself and then go on with your life.
Bengaluru, April 8: Health Horoscope 2022 is going to be an extremely important one as we have been going through the most challenging situations for the past two years. In such a situation, people are anxious to know how the year 2022 will turn out for them. Epidemiologically speaking, we don’t know. If I were to make an educated guess, I would say that perhaps by late second and third quarter 2022-
Covid-19 will continue but as a pandemic the end is near. The WHO has said that the “acute phase” of the pandemic could end by the middle of this year — if around 70 percent of the world is vaccinated. The best way to end the acute phase of the pandemic is for rich countries to share their doses rather than boost their populations again.
From pandemic to endemic? Where does one end and the other begin?
When viruses become predictable — in their patterns, in their seasonality and in the number of people that they might infect and the number of deaths that they might cause — we say that a virus has become endemic. That means it has settled down into a long-term existence with the human population.
The big unknown
There is a widespread, rosy misconception that viruses evolve over time to become more benign. The word ‘endemic’ has become one of the most used and misused. A disease can be endemic and both widespread and deadly. Malaria killed more than 600,000 people in 2020, while 1.5 million died of tuberculosis.
If another deleterious variant doesn’t emerge. If there was ever a time for humility among scientists and policymakers with this virus, it’s now.
Metrics to declare the end of the pandemic!
I know – that’s on everyone’s mind. How long will we continue like this? Will COVID be around forever? It’s somewhat subjective. Is it no cases? Is it 1,000 cases? Is it 100 deaths?
The metrics could vary from vaccinated to unvaccinated people – lower in vaccinated and somewhat higher in unvaccinated. Vaccines prevent severe disease really very effectively.The estimates range from months to years from now. Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have functionally declared an end to the pandemic in their countries, lifting almost all health restrictions even as New Zealand and Hong Kong struggle with record-breaking surges.
Economic aspects of WHO declaration of the end of the pandemic.
Public Health Emergency of International Concern -PHEIC legally binds 196 signatories to follow WHOs’ recommendations during the emergency. Drug makers have signed contracts agreeing to make anti–COVID pills more affordable until the Pandemic emergency is reversed. Other big, cooperative efforts “that were put in place to make diagnostics, vaccines affordable and to distribute them worldwide, all of those things … will fall away. Getting it wrong will carry a high price.
When we say the pandemic is over, we have to make sure the public understands that it does not mean that the virus has disappeared and it’s all gone. It only means that the horrific stage of intense transmission with consequent illness is over and we have this virus under better control. —