Social distancing measures may have to continue for years, says Harvard study 

By - World Healthcare Journal

Social distancing measures may have to continue for years, says Harvard study 

Some forms of social distancing may have to continue for years to come, according to a recent study from Harvard University published in the research journal Science.

The modelling study estimated the effects that Covid-19 will continue to have on the world if no interventions are found, examining various factors such as seasonality, immunity, and environmental factors to determine how long Covid-19 may continue to impact our daily lives.

The study also warned that the enforcement of a single period of social distancing will not be enough to quell the virus - under all scenarios, there was a resurgence of the virus following the restrictions being lifted. We may already be seeing indications of this occurring in reality, as locally transmitted cases have begun to rise for the first time in weeks.

This means that in order to battle coronavirus effectively, the world may have to remain in various different levels of social distancing for years to come - which will also hugely depend on whether Covid-19 enters the general, seasonal circulation of viruses such as cold and flu.

Researchers noted that if immunity against Covid-19 is permanent, the virus could “virtually disappear” five or more years from now. Yet, if immunity is not permanent and only protects within the short-term, it is more likely that we will see annual or biennial outbreaks of Covid-19 (see figure below).

However, the study noted this potential scenario was only likely to occur if no significant intervention is taken, such as the development of a vaccine, therapeutic care improvement, or a large global increase in critical care capacity - all of which are currently being heavily researched across the planet.

To conduct the study, researchers from Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health examined data from multiple similar coronaviruses with similarities to Covid-19 to predict how various situations would affect the trajectory of the current pandemic.

The model indicated that when social distancing measures are either relaxed or removed completely, cases will spike again, which may cause considerable amounts of disruption and turmoil if they occur at the same time as next winter’s flu season, causing a capacity crisis for hospitals.

"Even in the event of apparent elimination, SARS-CoV-2 surveillance should be maintained since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024," researchers wrote in the report. "Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or a treatment or a vaccine becomes available."

If you would like to read the full study, it can be found here: 

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