After the initial confusion caused by the coronavirus, the world seems to have stood still. Schools and workplaces have shut down. Hospitals have become overburdened. And Governments all around the globe are urging people to stay indoors.
And it seems like amidst all this confusion one question looms above us more than anything else. How long is social-distancing going to last?
Experts say social distancing isn’t likely to end anytime soon. COVID-19 is a new virus and like all new viruses, no immunity has been built up to it.
Therefore this highly transmittable disease has begun a rapid spread across the world. Unlike SARS and MERs, COVID-19 was not contained in time. As such WHO has dubbed it as a pandemic.
The only way to combat a pandemic after it has started is by building up a herd immunity to it. A herd immunity stops the virus in its track by marginally decreasing the spread of the virus.
Moreover, the number of people required to build an immunity to a virus depends on its “R0“, its Basic Reproduction value.
Coronavirus is estimated to have an R0 of 2. Meaning for every infected person, on average, two more people will be infected by that person.
For this Basic Reproduction value, experts estimate about one-third to two-thirds of the people on earth would need to build immunity to the virus. Which comes around to 2.5 – 5 billion people.
Of course, after reading this, you may think the best course of action might be to let the virus run rampant as it pleases, to build up herd immunity faster.
Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that, while this would be the fastest way to build immunity, it would be one with very high casualty rates. Making the experts at imperial college believe that the pandemic will peak in three months.
Although the coronavirus itself is not that lethal, people suffering from previous immuno-deficiency are more vulnerable to the disease. Especially among the elderly and young.
Moreover, since the disease over-burdens hospitals, many avoidable deaths also occur. Such is the case with Italy, where there have been over 10,000 deaths. Many of which, were avoidable.
Therefore the best course of action decided by experts is to stay indoors and practise social distancing. This is to flatten the predicted curve of infectees.
After considering all the facts and options, epidemiologists believe the best route would be to follow social distancing. The predicted duration for this distancing would be 2-3 months.
Although this method will reduce the casualties seen worldwide, this reduces the build-up of immunity. It is even seen as an unrealistic way of living. As expert Maciej Boni Stated
“It’s like you’re holding back a wave of infections with Saran Wrap.”~Maciej Boni, an epidemiologist at Penn State University
That being said, however, it is the best course of action right now. Until a vaccine is available to help create an immunity to the virus, We must all act responsibly within our own communities. Help each other where we can. And most importantly, stay safe.