Evidence given recently to the House of Commons Health committee by the Director of the Wellcome Trust and others says that we will be living with Covid-19 for a very long time and for sure, most of the experts agree the virus will not be gone by Christmas.
The government needs to open the economy and there is a path to mange the virus as long as people behave responsibly. For most of us, this is quite acceptable and for some, the “new normal” as it is now being called, is a welcome change to the maddening pace of life before the virus. In Europe at least, the virus has moved to being endemic (regularly found in the community) and we can expect localised outbreaks to continue to occur. It seems that return to work in food processing plants is particularly problematic – a situation that needs to be managed carefully. The one thing we cannot afford to have is another “food and loo roll panic” leading to “people panic” and riots on the streets.
The watchword is complacency, already we see people are tired of lockdown and want to “cut loose”, thus risking a second wave of infections. Unfortunately, this looks to be increasingly likely. Testing for the virus and isolation of infected people is the most effective way for society to control the virus; the often mentioned “herd immunity” has been jumped on by the press but is a far cry from the reality of the situation – it is not at all clear that any immunity developed against the virus will be durable and the combination of people; a) feeling “safe” after a positive antibody test and b) feeling “I can’t catch it again”, is really rather dangerous. Antibody tests will be part of the mix in the battle against the virus but they will not be a game changer.
This virus will in a likelihood become a seasonal menace along with flu; anti-viral pharmacology will eventually play a part and we can fully expect vaccination and then re-vaccination to become the norm. The role of host genetics in predicting disease severity is under researched. It may well be that this is the area from which the answers come; the strategy then becomes identification and protection of those most at risk genetically, rather than ephemeral, blanket, meaningless, cross population herd immunity.