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Living With COVID-19 – A Virus That’s Going Nowhere Fast

Plenty of change can happen in a year, but when it comes to COVID-19, it’s difficult to envision a world where it doesn’t feature in some capacity, even decades down the line.

This article published by Bloomberg almost exactly a year ago touches on the notion that the highly contagious COVID virus will be around for a long, long time and that any idea that we would be free from it in a year or two were nothing short of idealistic and hopeful fantasies.

The piece, published in March 2021, looks to 2022 and beyond with regards to the pandemic and summarises that ‘we must start planning for a permanent pandemic.’ And looking at the current COVID landscape a year on, it doesn’t seem an unrealistic claim.

Herd immunity, defined as ‘resistance to the spread of an infectious disease within a population that is based on pre-existing immunity of a high proportion of individuals because of previous infection or vaccination’, remains a hope for many, as both the number of administered vaccines in the UK at least, and the numbers of those previously infected by the virus rises. But, it’s not quite so simple.

'There are some who argue that we will never reach 100% herd immunity due to multiple factors such as ongoing changes to this virus via different variants.’

Rodney E. Rohde, Infectious Disease Specialist and Professor of Clinical Laboratory Science

The issues with herd immunity and COVID however, goes beyond just new variants.

‘'Consider two alternative evolutionary paths. In one, a virus becomes more severe but not more transmissible. It will cause more disease and death, but the growth is linear. In the other path, a mutating virus becomes neither more nor less virulent but more contagious. It will cause increases in disease and death that are exponential rather than linear.’ Wrote Bloomberg Opinion columnist Andreas Kluth in March last year.

He continues that ‘If this is the evolutionary trajectory of SARS-CoV-2, we’re in for seemingly endless cycles of outbreaks and remissions, social restrictions and relaxations, lockdowns and re-openings.’

With recent news articles this week that COVID cases in the UK are rising, as well as global COVID cases, it is evident that we are no closer to herd immunity than we were this time last year. With virus mutations proving more resistant to vaccines, and reinfections rising with the newest Omicron BA.2 variant, highlighted by this study on reinfections in South Africa, the idea that we will be rid of COVID in the next few years feels less and less likely.

‘There is little to no chance that we would see this virus completely vanish in the next few years. There’s so much at play, and it’s likely much more feasible that it will become more like a flu virus that is always around but becomes more manageable.

This is of course what we hope, but looking at predictions from a year ago, the way the virus has mutated in that time, and all the elements around this virus that are still unknown to us, there are no guarantees that it will go this way, and as such we all need to continue to remain vigilant around minimising the risks that come with COVID-19. We also must consider the significant disparities in vaccination rates across the globe and given that the virus mutates in unvaccinated hosts, this would need to be remedied if we are to achieve a better handle on the virus and the emergence of new variants.’

Dr Adam Al-Khafaji MBChB BSc MRCEM MRCGP PGCert (Testbase Medical Director)

What might we be saying about the virus and our predictions of how it might develop a year from now?

We can’t predict the future, but what we can do is take the necessary steps on an ongoing basis to ensure we are protecting ourselves, our friends, families, and wider communities. The world into which we’re headed doesn’t need to be a dystopian nightmare, but rest assured it won’t be anything like the world we once knew.

The virus is unpredictable, and testing remains the only truly effective way to ensure risks are mitigated in both personal and professional environments.

If you want to ensure operational efficiency for your business, while protecting yourself, your personnel and your customers, find out how we can help you today by using our smart and simple testing plan configurator or call us now on 0333 577 0099.

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