WITH world leaders and public health officials weighing in on when should lift social distancing requirements amid the coronavirus pandemic, a study authored by Harvard University researchers paints a bleak picture.
The study, published in the journal Science, suggests intermittent social distancing might be necessary until 2022 if no vaccine or pharmaceutical treatments for the novel coronavirus are found.
“The total incidence of COVID-19 illness over the next five years will depend critically upon whether or not it enters into regular circulation after the initial pandemic wave, which in turn depends primarily upon the duration of immunity that SARS-CoV-2 infection imparts,” the study said.
The researchers studied other coronaviruses related to the novel one that causes COVID-19 to simulate a host of potential outcomes for the current pandemic.
They argued implementing social distancing measures only once could result in a “prolonged single-peak epidemic” that strains the health care system.
“Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or a treatment or vaccine becomes available,” researchers wrote.
The study argues multiple shorter periods of social distancing are favorable over one long one. This is because social distancing would be too effective with no one getting infected and building immunity, which would be catastrophic if the virus shows up again.