Thursday, June 08, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 18, 1444 H
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Beginning of an end to the pandemic?


Along with many others, I too took a decision last week not to engage in any discussion about the Covid-19, which wrought havoc during the last two years. Nevertheless, with the changes taking place in our daily lives thanks to the breather from the ease in restrictions and respite in the nature of the virus, I feel it is appropriate to share some thoughts with the readers.

True, after nearly two years and wave after wave of the deadliest outbreak in human history, the hopefuls have now started embracing the belief that the latest variant of the virus, albeit it is found to be less deadly than its delta predecessor, will herald the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

As researchers predict, after the Omicron wave, we will get back on track although Covid-19 is expected to become endemic. But we need a shift in both language and approach!

Let me start with what Dr Anthony Fauci, the top White House medical adviser at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, said, “If you look at the history of infectious diseases, we’ve only eradicated one infectious disease in man, and that’s smallpox. That’s not going to happen with this virus.”

If he is to be believed the current pandemic won’t end with the elimination of the coronavirus. Instead, a less dangerous and disruptive strain of the virus will likely take hold and become endemic!

After the outbreak of Covid-19 and its declaration as a pandemic, much has changed not just in terms of research, our knowledge of the virus, but also our attitude towards coronavirus.

We’ve now developed a certain set of habits for the last two years, and we’ve just got to get used to them again. It’s important that we do not drop our guard, surrender to the virus or downgrade the threat that the virus poses to us.

It’s essential that we understand living with the virus isn’t the same thing as ignoring the virus. Instead, it represents an adjustment in the way in which we respond to the disease.

We remain vigilant and respond to surges in cases when they occur, doing what’s needed to keep transmission as low as possible. Some societal and public health changes brought by the pandemic should continue to be in practice.

Importantly, as experts point out, a disease being considered endemic doesn’t mean we consider it mild. It just means it remains a part of our lives, and therefore we still protect the vulnerable from severe illness, as we do with other diseases.

In order to reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging, it’s vital we really step up our rollout of vaccines globally to reduce virus transmission. It is still a global concern that millions of people are still not vaccinated!

At the same time, the big question as to when will this transition to endemic happen remains unanswered.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates tweeted last week that once Omicron subsides, “the rest of the year should see far fewer cases so Covid can be treated more like seasonal flu.”

Looking at the future of a pandemic that completely caught the world by surprise in 2019, a specialist at Indiana University School of Medicine says it “is like a public health vehicle trying to drive through the bad weather of a pandemic.”

And even though we have the best headlights, we can’t see beyond this fog. In other words, we really don’t know if there’s going to be another variant that may create a lot of havoc.

People are slowly starting to realise that we need to learn to live with this, because the virus is not going away.

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