COVID-19: Maintaining Social Isolation Through 2022?

COVID-19: Maintaining Social Isolation Through 2022?

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New stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the near future?

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is important to find out how SARS-CoV-2 will continue to exist in the human population after the first pandemic stage and how we can protect ourselves in the future.

In the current research work by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has examined how COVID-19 will develop after the first stage of the pandemic and how this could affect our future. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Science".

What is the impact of human immunity?

The new model study suggests that the overall incidence of the virus by 2025 will depend crucially on the duration of human immunity. Since human immunity has so far been insufficiently researched, longitudinal serological studies are now urgently needed to determine the level of immunity of the population and to find out whether immunity is decreasing and at what rate this is happening, the researchers report.

Social isolation by 2022?

Based on modeled future virus infection scenarios, the research group suggested that a one-time social distancing can suppress critical cases up to hospital capacity. Once these measures have been removed, the infection can flare up again and overwhelm our hospitals, so that social distance must be maintained intermittently until 2022, the researchers advise.

Can SARS-CoV-2 be completely eradicated?

Health officials are increasingly unlikely that SARS-CoV-2 will behave similarly to SARS-CoV-1 and that the virus will be eradicated after a brief pandemic through intensive public health measures. Instead, the transmission could be similar to a flu pandemic through seasonal circulation. Understanding the likelihood of this scenario is key to an effective public health response.

Model verified length of social distancing measures

Using data on the seasonality of known human coronaviruses and assuming a certain cross-immunity between SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses, the researchers created a model of the multi-year interactions. Using this model, they investigated how long social distancing measures must be maintained in order to maintain control over SARS-CoV-2. The potential dynamics of COVID-19 have been predicted over the next five years.

Decreasing rate of virus infection needs to be determined

Based on their simulations, the researchers report that the key factor that will modulate virus incidence in the coming years is the rate at which virus immunity decreases. This rate has yet to be determined. In all simulated scenarios, including one-off and intermittent social distancing, the infections flared up again when the simulated social distancing measures were removed.

Are we facing an intense outbreak in winter?

If the social distance in the autumn is loosened, if the virus transmissibility increases, there can be an intense outbreak in the winter, which overlaps with the flu season and exceeds the capacity of the hospitals, explains the research group.

Another big outbreak in 2025?

Another modeled scenario shows that SARS-CoV-2 could flare up again in 2025. New therapeutics could alleviate the need for strict social distancing, but in the absence of such therapeutics, monitoring and intermittent distancing may need to be maintained until 2022, the researchers report.

Immunity needs to be strengthened

Such measures would give hospitals time to increase the capacity of intensive care. At the same time, the population would have the opportunity to strengthen immunity. The goal in modeling such measures is to determine the likely course of the epidemic using alternative approaches. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Stephen M. Kissler, Christine Tedijanto, Edward Goldstein, Yonatan H. Grad1, Marc Lipsitch2: Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period, in Science (Published Apr 14, 2020), Science

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