“The virus is not going to go away.” This is how forceful the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine is when have to draw the future of the pandemic. And it is not the only one. prestigious journals such as ‘The Lancet’ affirm thatFor this reason, the end of the pandemic is closer than we think. Yes, it will not be the ending that we all expected and were looking for. It will be an end in which Sars-CoV-2 and COVID-19 will continue with us.
Precisely for this reason, it is an end for which we have to start preparing. If we want to play our cards right, we don’t have much time.
The most likely scenario “The most likely scenario is that SARS-CoV-2 lives with us for many years.” It is not clear whether, as with influenza or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), waves like the current ones will continue to exist or their circulation will more or less resemble the four catarrhal coronaviruses that affect humans (and that remain constant during cold months without generating an annual peak at any time).
As the SEMFYC recalls, the interactions of the four major factors on which this future scenario depends (the characteristics of the microorganism itself, the immunity developed by the population, seasonality, and human behavior) are difficult to predict. However, what seems clear at this point is that what happened with SARS-CoV-1 will not happen. In other words, it does not seem likely that it will disappear in the coming years and that limits the scenarios: whatever it is, we have to prepare ourselves to live with it.
How do you learn to live with a virus? There are two fundamental elements: the first is to be proactive in managing immunity to SARS-CoV-2. We are at a special moment in this regard: because, as the WHO itself points out, “as soon as the current wave calms down, there will be global immunity for a few weeks and months, either thanks to the vaccine or because people will have been immunized due to the infection, and also a decrease due to seasonality”.
Under these conditions, “it is plausible that the region [europea] is nearing the end of the pandemic,” Hans Kluge concluded, regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO) for Europe. “It’s plausible” doesn’t mean “it’s safe”, of course. After all, the virus remains unpredictable and nothing prevents another variant (with immune escape) from returning us to the starting line. However, it is not likely in the short term and this new generalized immunity should lead us to a new communicative reality that allows us to move towards a new (and stable) normality.
fear has short parts. For months as more and more voices denounce, the communication strategy of many Western governments has pivoted on fear. However, this strategy has an expiration date (and loses effectiveness at a forced pace). Fundamentally, because “as has been seen, the dynamics of an epidemic is very complex and many factors influence it. In addition, the social determinants that contribute to the infection cannot be ignored: the impossibility of teleworking, the need to travel by public transport, overcrowding or the impossibility of isolating oneself in the home, labor difficulties in isolating and quarantining, etc.
Back to the new/old normal. With the strategy of fear, governments are tempted to “transfer their responsibilities in these areas to citizens” and, finally, end up making it difficult to return to normality. During these years, denounces the SEMYC, “there has been a lack of a correct evaluation of the benefit-risk ratio of each of the measures adopted and a true social debate on their implementation”.
Imagen: Christian Hartmann/Reuters