Covid: Learning To Live With It

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Covid: Learning To Live With It

Written By - Patra Manas. 25-10-2020.

Physicians and experts are warning that a vaccine may not prevent Covid from becoming endemic.

What does becoming endemic mean?

A virus becomes endemic when the infection rate does not fall to zero but instead stabilizes at a constant level and remains present in communities at all times.

As reported in CNBC, Dr David Heymann, who led the WHO’s infectious disease unit during the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003 said “ One of the scenarios for this virus is that it does become endemic and it looks at present like that is going to happen just like it happened four previous times when there was an emergence of a coronavirus into human populations that became endemic.” 

“ I think the answer is that, yes, this will become endemic,” he continued. “We shouldn’t just be trying to suppress this virus out of existence or trying to suppress it to a level that’s unrealistic. We have to be able to suppress it to a level where it causes minimum damage while at the same time entering a country and becoming endemic”

 “ The difficulty right now is that in many countries, they are looking forward to a vaccine which may or may not come, which may or may not be effective in the short or long term, and they are looking at possible therapeutic (options) which could solve many of the problems, but that’s not a good way to proceed at present. We have to learn to live with the pandemic.” Continue reading Below ... 

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Dr Heymann believes countries are over-reliant on vaccines while measures of effective communication, diagnostic testing and outbreak containment activities should be put into place instead and people must be prepared to live with it.

What does this mean for Thailand? Are we heading in the right direction in our Covid Control Measures? What about our country’s opening policy?

Thai authorities are aiming for a zero transmission rate in Thailand, essentially making Thailand a Covid free country while waiting for the vaccine.

That is a dangerous route to take because living in a Covid free environment does not prepare the population for an inevitable wave of import cases once the country does open, even with a vaccine.

The problem is if Covid proves to be endemic, it means it will be present at all times in most communities across the world. Whatever our “opening” policy is, whether we open up with a 14 day quarantine for visitors, with travel bubble agreements between selected “safe” countries or when there is a vaccine, there is no guarantee that Thailand will not see an increase in imported cases which could lead to local transmission.

So little is known about the virus that it is impossible to predict its behaviour. 

Recently, a french woman tested positive for Coronavirus days after completing a 14 day quarantine in Thailand. Is a 14 day quarantine sufficient? Can Thailand afford to open with more days of quarantine and how many days will make it safe?

Travel bubbles with “safe” countries is not foolproof plan either because no country has zero Covid cases. 

Given that a vaccine, when it arrives may not prove 100% effective or how long the antibodies will last in our bodies after a dose and that Covid may prove to be endemic, the best way forward is to prepare Thailand for the eventuality that we may not always remain a Covid free country, put proper measures into place and learn to live with it now.