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Endemic Covid – There is increasing concern that Omicron will lead the UK into the pandemic endgame.
What happens next? The virus will not vanish in a blink of an eye. Our new buzzword will be “endemic” – which means that Covid is, without a doubt, here to stay.
Is a new Covid-era really on the horizon and what will it mean for our lives?
Professor Julian Hiscox, chairman of the University of Liverpool’s infection and global health department, tells me that we’re nearing the end, at least in the UK. He says that life will almost be the same after the pandemic.
Immunity is what’s changing. We had become vulnerable to the new Coronavirus when it first appeared in Wuhan, China, two years ago. Our immune systems were completely unprepared for a new virus and no drugs or vaccines could help.
Remember that endemic does not automatically equate to mild. Prof Ghani says we have some killer diseases that we consider endemic. A third of people who were infected with smallpox died from it during the endemic period of thousands of years. Around 600,000 people die each year from malaria, which is endemic.
As our bodies become more familiar with fighting Covid, it is becoming less deadly.
More than 150,000 people have died in the UK as a result of the high level of infections. However, our immune systems have been strengthened as a result. It is likely that we will catch Covid again in the future, but we should still have a reduced risk of becoming seriously ill.
That means most people won’t be seriously affected, says Professor Hiscox, who chairs the government’s Advisory Group on New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats.
The majority of us, whether we get a new variant or an old variant, will get the sniffles, a headache, and then be okay.
What will it mean for our lives?
Those who die from endemic Covid will be mostly the elderly and vulnerable. It is still up to us to decide how to live alongside it.
Unless we’re willing to tolerate zero deaths from Covid, we’re going to be facing a whole range of restrictions, and it’s not game over,” explains Prof Hiscox.
He writes, “During a bad flu season, 200-300 people die every day, but no one wears a mask or isolates themselves from society.”
He expects that lockdowns and restrictions on mass gatherings will not return and that the mass testing for Covid will end this year.
It is almost a certainty that the vulnerable will receive booster vaccines come autumn to give them extra protection through winter.
Dr. Groppelli says we need to recognize that our flu season will also be a Coronavirus season.
What about the rest of the world?
Despite the UK being ahead of most of the world thanks to vaccines and a large number of infections, the world is not near seeing an end to the pandemic.
Vaccines are still in short supply in poorer countries. At the same time, countries that kept Covid at arms’ length have had very few deaths, but also have a lower level of immunity.
World Health Organization officials have made it clear that Covid is a long way from being an endemic disease.
Dr. Groppelli concludes, “It is still a pandemic and an acute emergency for the whole world.”