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Thursday, January 28, 2021

How will 2021 is likely to be on the Covid-19 front for us? Explained in 5 points

As we know, the coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, last year in December. Ever since, not only has the virus spread deeper and further into the world, many new facts about the virus and disease it causes have also come to light. As medical professionals and researchers inch closer to finding an effective and safe vaccine against the virus, more research has been conducted in finding out the effects of weather on the coronavirus. And these researches suggest that it is likely, along with the rest of the world, India may also witness the second wave of infection. In this article, we shall talk about the issue and all aspects related to it.

How will 2021 is likely to be on the Covid-19 front for us? Explained in 5 points

1. The earlier standpoint about virus spread

Previously, some studies had found that the hot weather, like the one experienced in India in the summer months of May and June, may help to slow down the spread of the virus. A few studies had also compared the spread of the virus in places with cold climate, to those with a warmer climate, and had found that the viral spread in the latter was much lower. However, no conclusive evidence supporting the claim has been found as yet.

2. Winters may trigger a second wave

With India already becoming the second-worst affected country in the world due to the pandemic, the numbers of positive cases reported every day continue to rise. It is almost 1 lakh cases per day. Reports have now suggested that some experts believe that the cold weather that is soon to begin in the country may trigger a second wave of Covid-19, much worse than the first one.

While there is no scientific study as yet to substantiate the claim completely, and a high degree of uncertainty around the disease, reports have shown that the virus may be able to survive longer in colder temperatures. According to a report, Klaus Stohr, an infectious disease expert who previously worked with the WHO, “the epidemiological behaviour of this virus will not be that much different from other respiratory diseases. During winter, they come back.” Experts around the world, and those closer to home, also mirror the opinion based on their findings. The Academy of Medical Sciences, UK, has also predicted that a peak in hospital admissions and deaths is likely to be reported in January/February 2021 with a similar magnitude to that of the first wave in spring 2020. Another study, conducted jointly by researchers at IIT-Bhubaneswar and the AIIMS, has suggested that the decrease in temperatures will favour the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

Researchers and medical professionals around the world are leaving no stone unturned to find an effective, safe, and cheap vaccine against the virus, as soon as possible. While the spread of the virus continues to rise, it is important to follow precautions such as wearing a mask, social distancing, staying at home, and keeping the body as healthy as possible to fight the disease, if contracted.

3. General mindset of people about the virus

Dr Anthony Fauci warned us recently that Covid-19 is likely to be hanging over our lives well into 2021. He’s right, of course. We need to accept this reality and take steps to meet it rather than deny his message. But people across the world are resistant to this possibility. Especially in India, people never took this pandemic seriously. Hence, no social distancing or lockdown following. They’re hoping to restart postponed sports seasons, attend schools more easily, enjoy rescheduled vacations and participate in delayed parties and gatherings. It is completely understandable that many are tiring of restrictions due to Covid-19. Unfortunately, their resolve is weakening right when we need it to harden. This could cost us dearly.The unrealistic optimism stems in part from the fact that people have started pinning their hopes on a medical breakthrough. There have been promising developments. Remdesivir holds potential for those who are hospitalized. Convalescent plasma might do the same. Antibody treatments might improve outcomes for some or prevent infections in those at highest risk. But still there is a long way to go.

4. Perceptions about vaccine and its overestimation

People all over the world are also overestimating what a vaccine might do. Indians are no exception. India making or collborating in production of two major vaccines could be the reason for this. Many are focusing on whether approval is being rushed as a campaign ploy, but that’s almost beside the point. It seems likely that a vaccine will be approved this fall and that it will be “effective.” But it’s very unlikely that this vaccine will be a game changer.

All immunizations are not the same. Some, like the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, provide strong, nearly lifelong benefits after a few doses. Others, like the influenza vaccine, produce limited benefits that last for a season. We don’t know yet where a coronavirus vaccine will fall, although something along the lines of a flu shot seems more probable. We don’t know how long whatever immunity it provides will last. We don’t know whether there will be populations that derive more or less benefit.

Because of all these unknowns, we will need to continue to be exceedingly careful even as we immunize. Until we see convincing evidence that a vaccine has a large population-level effect, we will still need to mask and distance and restrain ourselves. Too many of us won’t. Too many will believe that the vaccine has saved them, and they will throw themselves back into more normal activities. That could lead to big outbreaks, just as winter hits at its hardest.

5. The humongous task of vaccine distribution

This is a huge challenge for India. Since we have the world’s second largest population with poor medial infrastructure, distributing the vaccine once it comes to market is a tremendous task. Questions about required refrigerator facilities, transportation etc are already in debate. Even this assumes, of course, that we can distribute the vaccine widely and quickly (which is doubtful), that most people will get it (many won’t) and that we will succeed in prioritizing distribution so that those most at risk will get it first (flying in the face of decades of disparities in the way health care is distributed).

The approval of a vaccine may be the beginning of a real coronavirus response; it certainly won’t be the end. It is much more likely that life in 2021, especially in the first half of the year, will need to look much like life does now. Those who think that we have just a few more months of pain to endure will need to adjust their expectations. Those thinking that school this fall will be a one-off, that we will be back to normal next year, let alone next semester, may be in for a rude awakening.

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