Harvard researchers predict “social distancing” by 2022
| Reading time: 3 minutes
What is the normality after the corona virus? Harvard University experts believe that social distancing measures will remain important for years to come. They also play through the scenario of sudden easing.
MPeople around the world will need to maintain some degree of social detachment by 2022 to prevent Covid-19 from spreading again and overwhelming health systems. This is the assumption of a group of Harvard researchers around the epidemiologist Edward Goldstein.
The sudden abolition of “social distancing” measures could run the risk of merely delaying the epidemic’s culmination and possibly exacerbating it, the scientists warned in a Tuesday newspaper “Science” published articles. The magazine works on the principle of peer review.
According to the article (“Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period”) the course of the pandemic will depend on unanswered questions: will the spread of the virus change with the seasons? What immunity will people develop after being infected? And does exposure to coronaviruses that cause mild diseases offer protection against the pathogen that causes Covid-19?
The Harvard researchers used computer models to simulate how the pandemic could develop. One possibility is that strict social distancing, followed by intensive public health detective work, could detect and eradicate the virus. This was the case with SARS-CoV-1, which caused a worldwide outbreak in 2003. However, given the large number of confirmed cases of the new pathogen, which is approaching the two million mark worldwide, this outcome is considered to be increasingly unlikely, the scientists explain.
They are more likely that the virus will persist like that flu and spread seasonally around the globe.
In one of the researchers’ models, an epidemic peak that was as large as in the case of an uncontrolled spread occurred after the end of 20 weeks of measures to limit the spread.
“The social distance was so effective that practically no population immunity was built up,” said the researchers on this scenario. If the virus is transmitted earlier in colder months than in warm months, a delay in peaking into autumn could increase the burden on health systems, they wrote.
To avoid such consequences, social distancing measures may be necessary again and again until 2022, unless the hospital capacity is increased or effective vaccines or treatments against the novel coronavirus are developed.
Germany is slowly trying to get back to normal
In Germany, the National Academy Leopoldina has just made recommendations for returning to normal. The researchers suggested on Monday that schools should be reopened “as soon as possible”, initially for younger children. Wearing a protective mask for public transport should become a duty, data collection also had to be “substantially” improved with the help of Corona apps.
The 26-person working group, including Leopoldina President Gerald Haug, the economy Lars Feld and the sociologist Armin Nassehi, continues to regard “rapid containment of the spread of the pandemic” as the top priority. Even if the Corona crisis would continue to determine economic and social life for months to come, strategies for the gradual return to normal would have to be developed.
The prerequisites for relaxation are: the new infections stabilize at a low level, the health system is not overloaded, infected people are increasingly identified, the known protective measures are “disciplined”.