Pandemic will be around for at least 18-24 months, says US report

WASHINGTON: The novel coronavirus will be around for at least 18 to 24 months under any circumstances, a new US report has said, projecting that it will only start to fizzle out when roughly two-thirds of the population is infected and “herd immunity” sets in.
The report comes even as President Trump on Thursday made known his intention to seek reparations of up to $1 trillion from Beijing, alleging that he has a “high degree of confidence” the novel coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China. The twin developments undercut any expectation that life – and international relations – will return to pre-2020 days any time soon.
The report by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) released Thursday, based on the study of previous pandemics, presents three possibilities, none of which see an immediate demise of the coronavirus. In the first scenario, the pandemic will continue in a series of “peaks and valleys,” gradually waning over time until it dies out in 2021. “The occurrence of these waves may vary geographically and may depend on what mitigation measures are in place and how they are eased,” the report states, noting that scenario could require periodic reinstitution and subsequent relaxation of mitigation measures over the next 1 to 2 years.
In the second, “worse case scenario,” the report says the current outbreak will be eclipsed by a much larger peak in the fall or winter of this year in echoes of the 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic. Smaller peaks will follow before the infection rate is wrestled down with more lockdown measures. The best case scenario projects a “slow burn,” with the pandemic gradually fading away with smaller and smaller peaks from now till 2022.
“Whichever scenario the pandemic follows (assuming at least some level of ongoing mitigation measures), we must be prepared for at least another 18 to 24 months of significant COVID-19 activity, with hot spots popping up periodically in diverse geographic areas,” the report warns, urging the government to level with public that the pandemic will not be over soon and to prepare for the worst-case scenario two – where no vaccine is available and herd immunity has not been met this year.
The sobering assessment came even as many states in the US began relaxing mitigation measures and federal social distancing norms ended, even though coronavirus cases and deaths spiked in places with infections as soon as the foot was taken off the lockdown. After dipping to below 1500 deaths per day last weekend, the daily nationwide US coronavirus toll has soared to over 2300 per day over each of the last three days, with the overall tally crossing 64,000 on Friday. One model from the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University is now predicting that 100,000 Americans will have died from COVID-19 by the end of summer.
The still rising toll, the economic distress that has destroyed 30 million jobs (is now resulting in meat shortage across the country), and relentless criticism of his handling of the whole crisis, is pushing President Trump into an increasingly tough stance towards China. On Thursday, Trump held Beijing squarely responsible for the pandemic, indicating that Washington will now consider seeking reparations from China.
Contradicting views of the US intelligence committee that no assessment has been made on whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan and that it continues to “rigorously examine” the issue, Trump said he has seen evidence that gives him a “high degree of confidence” the novel coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan. “What gives you a high degree of confidence that this originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?” one reporter asked. “I can’t tell you that, I’m not allowed to tell you that,” Trump replied.
The exchange was followed by leaks from the administration and congressional sources that Washington is considering a range of drastic steps ranging from stripping China of “sovereign immunity” that foreign nations enjoy in US courts (which will allow the US government or victims to sue Beijing for damages) to seizing or defaulting on US debts to China.
Trump however indicated that he is favour of a more moderate approach such as imposing massive tariffs on Chinese imports and ending flight of manufacturing jobs to the country. “You know you have the dollar to protect. We want to protect the sanctity of the dollar… its the greatest currency in the history of the world,” Trump said, dismissing the idea of stiffing China on US debt, a step which many experts have warned will torpedo the global financial system.

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