The coronavirus pandemic could last up to two years, and as many as two-thirds of the population may need immunity before the spread of the virus can be controlled, according to a new report out this week.
The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota reported on Thursday that the potential for asymptomatic people to spread the virus makes it much more difficult to control than other viral outbreaks. Some reports state that infected people might be at their most contagious before their symptoms develop.
“The virus caught the global community off guard, and its future course is still highly unpredictable; there is no crystal ball to tell us what the future holds and what the ‘end game’ for controlling this pandemic will be,” reads the report.
The researchers note that “Key points from observing the epidemiology of past influenza pandemics that may provide insight into the COVID-19 pandemic include the following. First, the length of the pandemic will likely be 18 to 24 months, as herd immunity gradually develops in the human population.”
They site an article published in The Journal of Infection that found, “Given the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2, 60% to 70% of the population may need to be immune to reach a critical threshold of herd immunity to halt the pandemic.”
The report outlines three possible scenarios for the pandemic. The first has the initial wave trailing off into smaller waves over the summer before “gradually diminishing sometime in 2021.” The second has a larger wave follow the initial wave in the summer or fall of 2020, with smaller waves following in 2021. The third shows a “slow burn” following the first wave, which would not follow “a clear wave pattern.”
They note that “whichever scenario the pandemic follows … we must be prepared for at least another 18 to 24 months of significant COVID-19 activity, with hot spots popping up periodically in diverse geographic areas.”
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