The global health watchdog warns that COVID-19 could become endemic and a vaccine could take some time coming
As nations around the world prepare to restart their economies after months of being in a state of lockdown, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the Coronavirus is here to stay and may never go away. And as the virus is still mutating, the world health watchdog is not even sure if there will be a surge in cases or a petering out after the lockdowns are lifted. As nations across the world hope that it will be the latter, the WHO wants countries not to let their guard down and continue to keep a hawk’s eye on the spread. Seems we will just have to live with the Coronavirus the way we live with HIV, Tuberculosis (TB) and even Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). For instance, in India, despite the best of efforts and huge amounts of money spent, approximately 220,000 deaths occur due to TB every year. Similarly, the number of people living with HIV currently is 36 million as a whopping two million people become newly infected with it every year. We are living with equally dangerous NCDs as they account for approximately 41 million casualties (which is 71 per cent of global deaths) each year. In India, the number of people who die of NCDs yearly is 5.8 million and according to WHO projections, the total annual number of deaths worldwide will increase to 55 million by 2030.
Just like in the case of HIV, a vaccine for COVID-19 may not materialise anytime soon. Six Indian companies are working on one and at least three have gone into a human clinical trial phase. Mass use, therefore, is not expected before 2021. And the worst part is that these pandemics are only set to become more frequent as the years go by. According to a 2016 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, there has been a worldwide increase in zoonotic epidemics. In the last century, a combination of population growth and reduction in ecosystems and biodiversity has culminated in unprecedented opportunities for pathogens to pass between animals and people and on average, one new infectious disease emerges in humans every four months, the report says. So, the choice is before us. Either we wake up and start respecting nature and behave more responsibly towards it, or we just learn to live with these pandemics that will keep on coming at us till we have learnt our lesson.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)