‘Winter is coming’: Health experts suggest what to do as another coronavirus wave expected in the cold season
Even though many countries are still reeling under the first wave of coronavirus and fail to curb the escalating number of infected people, health experts warn of another wave which may be triggered in winters ahead of vaccine creation. Researchers across the world are competing against one another to come up first with a drug that could beat the fast-speading pandemic but they may not be fast enough as the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still spreading at an alarming rate and may survive longer during the winters.
As uncertainty looms over how the virus will behave in colder temperatures, an infectious disease expert and former WHO virologist, Klaus Stohr, had said in an interview with Bloomberg, “The epidemiological behaviour of this virus will not be that much different from other respiratory diseases. During winter, they come back. There will be another wave, and it will be very serious. More than 90% of the population is susceptible. If we do not tighten again to a serious lockdown or similar measures, the virus is going to cause a significant outbreak. Winter is coming before the vaccine. ”
However, this was not the first time that Stohr sounded the alarm on the pandemic. He has been urging governments for years to prepare for the grim possibility of a pandemic ever since he identified a coronavirus as the cause of SARS in 2003. Later in 2007, he left the WHO to join drugmaker Novartis AG before retiring a couple of years ago.
Painting a sobering picture, Stohr had predicted in July this year that the world will be divided into two groups by the next year - those with vaccines like Germany and those with no vaccines like Brazil, Argentina or Chile which may never get a single dose and still have to cope. He said, “I would assume that by the middle of next year a significant portion of the world will have antibodies. That will increase gradually over time. Then there will be a third wave, and when that is over, I would think that 80% of the world may have antibodies if lockdowns are not instituted, which I doubt.”
Echoing his thoughts, England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty told News Sky, “Planning for the next winter, it would be foolish to plan on the basis we will have a vaccine. Now that may be wrong - a lot of people are doing a huge amount scientifically, logistically to make sure that’s a pessimistic statement, to try and see if we can get a vaccine at an extraordinarily fast speed but we have to check it works and we have to make sure it’s safe and these things do take time.”
With the large scale immunisation gearing to be another future challenge and no vaccine in view for another six months, health experts suggest planning around current resources. Witty said, “We should plan on the basis we will not have a vaccine and then if one does prove to be effective and safe and available then we’re in a strong position to be able to use it and that will be great but we should be planning on the basis of what we currently have.”
Even Stohr had suggested that since vaccines will not be available for the majority of the world, “we have to find a way to open our community in a way that supports our long-term medical goal, which is the least number of casualties over time, knowing that you cannot avoid the spread of infection. ”
Giving a little hope, Stohr had revealed that conventional vaccines, different approaches, vector vaccines and mRNA could make very promising differences. He had said that coronavirus is not a particularly difficult virus to handle.
With alerts from health experts, monsoons taking a leave in another couple of weeks and winter just around the corner, it will be crucial to abide by certain norms to survive another wave of COVID-19. Regularly sanitise places, practise respiratory and hand hygiene measures, strictly follow social distancing rules without any lackadaisical approach and ramp up the testing for coronavirus so as to prevent COVID-19 from accelerating especially to the most susceptible and vulnerable sections of the society.
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