Coronavirus pandemic: Is the end in sight?

JUST over a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, we continue to see cases fluctuate worldwide, with approximately 140 million cases recorded in total and more than three million people having lost their lives to the virus.

While most countries continue with public health measures such as mask-wearing mandates, the measure that has possibly given most people hope has been mass vaccinations globally. The question that many people are asking then becomes: “Is the end of the coronavirus pandemic in sight?”

WHO director in Europe, Hans Henri Kluge, has hypothesised that the pandemic may be behind us by the beginning of 2022, pointing out that the virus will still exist but that the disruptive measures – such as lockdowns and curfews – may no longer be needed as it comes under control. That does not mean, however, that the situation may not worsen before it becomes better.


Are vaccines enough?

Millions of people across the world have been fully vaccinated since the start of 2021. WHO reports that, since January, both new infections and deaths have halved their numbers worldwide.

As of today, more than 135,000 Jamaicans have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Unfortunately, this is not enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Those who are fully vaccinated may still be carriers of COVID-19 and, therefore, still put those who are not vaccinated at risk.

Vaccinations will prove to be the most successful measure once each country achieves herd immunity. Ideally, this means that 65 per cent of Jamaicans must be fully vaccinated before the jab can make a significant difference to our statistics.

Currently, there is strong evidence that the vaccines being used will offer some form of protection against variants. In slowing down the spread of the virus, it also limits the possibility of mutations and the creation of new variants being spread. It is highly recommended and encouraged that each person do their part in making up the 65 per cent and get vaccinated as soon as it is available to them.


How long will public health measures last?

It is currently too early to rely on vaccines by themselves as a public health measure. As such, mask-wearing, social distancing and crowd limitations will be likely to follow us long after more of the population is vaccinated.

It has become clear over the past year that distancing and hygiene measures have been effective in controlling the spread of the virus locally as well as in many other countries. As some countries struggle to receive adequate supply of vaccines for their populations, relaxing these restrictions would be counterproductive and, possibly, cause the virus to continue to surge across populations.

Researchers have suggested it is possible that the virus could lose steam as time passes, becoming a local issue in specific locations rather than a global one. With the possibility that the virus may actually become weakened by mutations and fizzle out, paired with increased vaccinations worldwide, people may have hope of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Ideally, the global trend in the virus numbers will need to stabilise before we can confidently and definitively suggest that the end of the coronavirus pandemic is in sight. Until then, continue to wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and, if you have the chance to, get vaccinated. The end will become closer once everyone remains safe and responsible.

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