By Kalyani Shankar
It has been two years since Covid-19 emerged in China and spread worldwide. Since then, the globe has faced upheaval. As we enter 2022, what does the crystal ball say about the covid? Will the New Year see the end of the pandemic, or will it continue through the year? The short answer is the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet and is likely to continue through 2022. With unpredictable outbreaks still occurring worldwide, it is difficult to predict the end of the pandemic.
If we assume that all pandemics must end, every pandemic in history has completed at some point, even without the advances in sciences we have today. The bubonic plague was never entirely eradicated and has killed millions of people over the past 2,000 years. The 1918 Spanish flu lasted for around two years and infected 500 million people.
Despite early hopes, only about 40 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and millions are skipping their second doses. The World Health Organization has evaluated more than 270 million people had been affected by Covid, while an estimated 57% of the global population has received at least one dose of vaccine.
A few days ago, some experts predicted that many countries might become covid- free after suffering Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and other variants in the past two years. The rapid spread of the highly-mutated Omicron variant, identified in late November, undermines that hope. Some experts predict that there will be new mutations, new variants, as covid will be around for years like the flu and the common cold; there is no other option than to learn to live with it.
While coping with the covid forever might be daunting, experts predict it might become endemic sooner.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates predicted last week that despite Omicron, the ‘acute phase’ of the Covid-19 pandemic will end in 2022. “I am hopeful that the end is finally in sight. It might be foolish to make another prediction, but I think the acute phase of the pandemic will come to a close sometime in 2022.”
Many countries have resorted to wearing masks, maintaining social distances, and banning large gatherings. Omicron is spreading fast.
An independent population health research centre at the University of Washington Medicine in the United States has predicted India’s (COVID-19) cumulative death toll will be nearly 2.9 million by March 1, 2022.
However, one of India’s top scientists, Vidyasagar, the head of the National COVid 19 Supermodel Committee, has predicted “Third wave is likely to arrive early next year in India. It should be milder than the second wave due to a large-scale immunity present in the country now.”.
Though caught unaware during the second wave early this year, India has administered about 1.2 billion vaccines, one of the highest in the world due to the population size of India. The government will likely complete its first round of vaccinations in 2022. India has also increased the production of vaccines and might even export to needy countries.
We have learned some lessons from the second wave. When the Indian government thought we had almost defeated covid and the then health minister Harsh Vardhan even said that covid was dead, the second wave hit the country with such force. This second wave was mainly due to the complacency that things were becoming okay. People threw caution and went about without a mask or keeping social distance. People crowded in public places like temples and parks. The poll rallies held in poll-bound states like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry caused enough covid spread. We can escape the third wave if the people and politicians stick to the covid regulations.
The Indian government is getting ready to meet any eventuality and has stepped up the vaccine supply. The health sector has been allocated more funds in 2021 and it is likely to continue in the 2022 budget. The upcoming Assembly election in U.P, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Goa, and Gujarat is crucial for the BJP and Congress. The political parties should make sure that they address only virtual rallies and propagate their poll agenda through digital mode.
The future is unknowable. The good news is that India is better prepared to deal with Covid today than two years ago because vaccine supplies have increased. The bottom line is that the virus will continue to affect our lives and livelihoods unless the global community collectively addresses inequitable access to vaccines. At the same time, governments must invest in preparedness, prevention, and health care. The public also has its duty to cooperate with the government and follow regulations so that the new variant does not spread fast. (IPA Service)