Will Omicron end the pandemic? This is what the Endgame may look like

The Covid-19 pandemic seems never-ending, but studies suggest that the virus may behave like common cold and seasonal flu in future.

 |  4-minute read |   28-01-2022
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Every morning we all check the number of Covid cases in the country. And now we read headlines about newer, more dangerous strains. Covid-19, which was discovered in China in 2019, has given birth to multiple strains and variants till date. From scientists to governments, everyone’s collective goal at the moment is to find a solution to this neverending pandemic.

After vaccinations picking steam, we were a little relaxed. But little did we know that a new strain with an interesting name, Omicron, was preparing itself in the dressing room for its moment in the spotlight.

corovirus-inside-647_012822054518.jpgIllustration: Geetanjali, DailyO

The Omicron tsunami is still on. However, it is often characterised by flu-like symptoms which may subside within a few days. But in reality, the symptoms are more severe than those of flu. The duration is also lengthy with a significant amount of tiredness and fatigue. Many have been infected even after double vaccination.

Also, some reports claim that the other new strains may escape an RT-PCR test, like the stealth Omicron.

Basically, as the virus is getting old, we see new developments. Scientists find something new with each passing day. And the virus presents an upgraded version of itself.

So, now a number of questions are in front of us:

  • When will this end?
  • How will the pandemic end?
  • Are there new waves waiting for us?
  • How will the virus behave in future?

If you see history, the Spanish flu affected people in 3 different waves. India is in the middle of the third wave, whereas some countries are already dealing with the fourth one, like South Africa.

A few studies have predicted the future of Covid-19. Many of them clearly state that Covid is here to stay just like the flu.

WILL COVID BE THE NEW FLU?

Let’s take a look at some important studies:

1. COVID WILL STAY BUT NOT AS A PANDEMIC

According to a study published in The Lancet Journal, after the Omicron wave, Covid-19 will return, but the pandemic will not.

This means Covid-19 will become another recurrent disease just like the seasonal flu. The impact of Covid will be less in future, unlike the first and second waves.

The study also mentioned that there will be no requirement for extraordinary measures by governments.

The study also shared a few important points to note:

  • The third dose of the vaccine will boost antibody levels and provide better protection against the upcoming strain. It will also minimize severe disease and reduce hospitalization.
  • More than 50% of the world will be infected with Omicron by the end of March 2022.
  • Increasing mask use, expanding vaccination at the ongoing stage will limit the impact of Omicron.

mask-inside_012822053901.jpgWearing a mask will be important in the coming years as well.

2. COVID MAY BECOME ENDEMIC

In January 2021, much before the emergence of Omicron, Nature conducted a survey on the same lines. More than 100 immunologists, infectious-disease researchers and virologists working on the coronavirus participated in the survey.

More than 90% of the participants responded that Covid will become endemic. This means that the deadly virus will become more common than ever in future.

Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis said that the thinking about the end of Covid is unrealistic.

"Eradicating this virus right now from the world is a lot like trying to plan the construction of a stepping-stone pathway to the Moon," Osterholm said.

Point to note: The study clarified that failure to eradicate does not mean severe illness, death and massive hospitalisation. Better immunity, yearly vaccination will reduce the burden and limit it to conditions like common cold.

3. SEASONAL COVID

Another report in WebMD from September 2020 states that Covid could evolve into a seasonal illness like the flu.

The report mentions that endemic respiratory viruses including the flu give hints as to what could happen with Covid.

4. COULD BECOME LIKE COMMON COLD

Given that the severity of the virus has dropped during the Omicron spread, another study from May 2021 also predicted the same.

According to the study, Covid will exhibit symptoms of common cold, cough and sniffles within the next decade.

The study published in the journal Viruses states that the severity of Covid will decrease as the population will collectively develop immunity in the coming years.

covidflue-inside_012822054225.jpgCovid will behave like common cold after Omicron wave, say studies

WHAT WILL THE END OF PANDEMIC LOOK LIKE?

As per the studies, it can be concluded that the end of the pandemic is near. Hopefully after the Omicron variant. But it does not mean that Covid will suddenly vanish from the earth. The virus will still remain, but with less burden on the healthcare system.

  • The symptoms will be less severe
  • The hospitalisation rate will reduce
  • The death toll will fall
  • No major lockdowns will be required.

Covid will stay on like the seasonal flu, leading to common cold, cough and other mild symptoms.

During that stage too, we would require regular vaccinations, face masks, social distancing and other Covid guidelines to reduce the strength of this virus.

Omicron is driving the ongoing third wave in India right now. A booster dose is being given to a few people including senior citizens with pre-existing health conditions and frontline workers. But India continues to report more than 2 lakh cases every day.

Hopefully, there will be more of the third dose for other age groups. Till then, let’s do what’s required: follow social distancing, stay indoors, wear a mask and get the vaccine.

Writer

Varsha Vats Varsha Vats @varshavats19

Varsha Vats believes in unbiased journalism, and loves writing on health, lifestyle, food, entertainment and anything other than politics. She is a Senior Sub editor at DailyO.

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