People are still scared, some are frustrated. How long are these restrictions to our freedom going to go on.
I am not being pessimistic here, but there are people with unrealistic expectations, talking about us coming out of the Covid-19 crisis as if it is already happening, we are in the first stage of controlling the spread, and we are making inroads into the second phase of finding a vaccine, though we are not there yet. There are other phases to come. If we have realistic expectations there will not be the bad reactions caused by having your hopes dashed and dashed again.
So how long will it last?
It is unfortunate that the length of that the pandemic has not been adequately communicated. All the things that have been communicated about flattening the curve failed to mention that reducing the infection rate would elongate the time the infection would last for. Covid-19 is not going to be eradicated, the previous coronavirus pandemic, H1N1 or Spanish Flu, lasted nearly two years from the outbreak in October 1918. There is no reason to believe this will be any shorter. Only a vaccine will shorten that and although there are vaccines at the trial stage we have at this time no vaccine.
The number of vaccines needed once we have one is on a fantastic scale. H1D1 finally ran down due to herd immunity, with Covid-19 having a R0 rate, the average number of people typically infected per infectious person, of 3, to get R0 down to below 1, so that infection rate will drop. I need not be far below 1 for the infection rate to drop significantly.
How many vaccines do we need? To get R0 down to 1 we will need to immunise a third of the world population. then is to a world population = 7.5 billion, 5 billion need to be immune. With an estimated 7.5 billion people in the world we need 5 billion to be immunised. With the best hope among the vaccines under test needing two shots for immunity that id 10 billion doses of vaccine required. (Only 27 million people have been infected so far it has been estimated, which is not high enough to significantly affect the figures.)
How long will the pandemic last? Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, says Covid-19 will continue to be a “really serious challenge” for “at least the next nine months”. If you want more information about the effects of pandemics detatched from the present crisis, Professor Whitty gave a talk at Gresham Collage in October 2018 which is on YouTube.
There is a danger of taking estimates, especially those containing phrases like really serious and at least as being the end point and planning accordingly. I believe that is a mistake. nine months time, the end of May 2021 is when the crisis moves out of being really serious. There is still a time frame after that. A US source estimates that the crisis will last until November 2021.
Despite what I have discovered looking into this that the time scale is much longer than I had hoped, I had joked about having a ruby wedding in Aruba in April 2021, and was making plans for this, plans which are on hold, knowing that vaccine development is at the testing stage gives me optimism. The time of the pandemic will be restricted, though the testing will take time, then there’s the time it will take to manufacture billions of doses. We will get there, but it will take time. We will end up with a world where having a Covid jab will be no more than a minor inconvenience, like having a flu jab. This is a global pandemic, we will not be safe until the world is safe, a Britain first policy will have us still in an unsafe world, which will mean an unsafe Britain.
We are getting there, slowly. In the meantime the foreseeable future is there will be restrictions for some time. Our short term planning should be for that.
I finished writing this blog post towards the end of Monday 7th September. The next morning the Independent reported that deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, had warned that people have relaxed too much and that the British public should start taking the pandemic “very seriously again” or face a “bumpy ride over the next few months”.