December 27, 2020

A new wave Of COVID-19: No Respite from the Pandemic yet.

In November 2019, a pneumonia like outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China. On 31 December 2019, the outbreak was traced to a novel strain of corona virus, which was given the interim name 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization (WHO), later renamed SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses- now cualled as COVID-19. The Pandemic has infected more than 78 million people around the world and more than 1.7 million people lost their lives due to this pandemic so for. As the northern hemisphere moves into winter, corona virus rates are rising in parts of Europe and the United States. Experts are warning of a long winter ahead as Covid-19 and influenza put the squeeze on hospitals and other healthcare facilities. In response to the threat presented by the second wave, European countries and many US states have instituted population lockdowns that involve varying restrictions on movement, meeting people, work, schooling, shopping, hospitality and entertainment. We have seen from the first wave that, when instigated at scale, these measures can shrink the epidemic but at a tremendous cost to society and economic life. When applied for a long time such as in Melbourne, Australia, which locked down for nearly four months, the number of cases can be reduced to close to zero with rigorous wearing of masks, night-time curfews, closed schools, strict travel restrictions and heavy policing. The United Kingdom has been witnessing the worst of the corona virus pandemic as there seems to be no respite from the continuous waves of the infection. The first wave hit the country in late March, characterized by a high infection peak, and then registered a decline in August. The second wave rose steadily with the reproduction number staying above 1, pointing at a propagating epidemic. The new findings of the sixth round of the REal-time Assessment of Community Transmission-1 (REACT-1) study revealed that the weighted prevalence is 1.28 per cent, which indicates the prevalence of the infection has more than doubled within 20 days.
High-risk groups: The researchers stressed that all age groups had a higher prevalence during the ongoing wave. However, the biggest rise came in the 55 to 64 age group, at 1.20 per cent, which denotes a threefold increase from the previous round prevalence of 0.37 per cent. The prevalence was doubled to 0.81 per cent in the 65 and above group. However, the highest prevalence continued to be in the 18 to 24 age group at 2.25 per cent, up from 1.59 per cent in the last round. The researchers also mentioned that unemployed people are less likely to be infected with the virus at 0.64 per cent, compared to those who come in contact with others during the course of their work. The researchers noted that their October 2020 findings represent acceleration in the second wave of infections in England.
Current protocols insufficient: Despite the government laying down social distancing protocols and taking non-pharmaceutical interventions to contain the spread of the virus, researchers fear that the current compliance rates are not enough to bring down the R-value to below 1. This means the epidemic will continue to spread.
Notably, there are around 10 lakh infected individuals in England on any one day at present prevalence, assuming that nasal and oral swabs have 75 per cent sensitivity to the virus and that viral detection is possible up to 10 days from infection, the study observed. The researchers concluded in their study: “The second wave of the epidemic in England has now reached a critical stage. The inevitable outcome of accelerating transmission will be heavy hospitalizations and a high mortality rate. To avoid this, whether via regional or national measures, it is now time-critical to control the virus After the United Kingdom, some African nations like South Africa has also found a new strain of the novel corona virus which has resulted in a surge of cases, prompting a second wave.
Is there a Vaccine for COVID-19?
There are three COVID-19 vaccines for which certain national regulatory authorities have authorized the use. None have yet received WHO EUL/PQ authorization but it is expected that an assessment on the Pfizer vaccine by the end of December and for some others soon thereafter. It is likely that additional vaccines will be submitted to regulatory authorities for approval. There are many potential COVID-19 vaccines currently in development. Once vaccines are demonstrated to be safe and efficacious, they must be approved by national regulators, manufactured to exacting standards, and distributed. WHO is working with partners around the world to help coordinate key steps in this process, including to facilitate equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for the billions of people who will need them. More information about COVID-19 vaccine development is available here. It’s too early to know if COVID-19 vaccines will provide long-term protection. Additional research is needed to answer this question. However, it’s encouraging that available data suggests that most people who recover from COVID-19 develop an immune response that provides at least some period of protection against reinfection – although Researchers are still learning how strong this protection is, and how long it lasts. Most COVID-19 vaccines being tested or reviewed now are using two dose regimens. Let us pray and hope for the best in the coming days.
(The author a teacher of the School Education Department J&K Government is presently posted at Govt High School Brakpora Anantnag. Views are his own)
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Confirmed: 10,667,736Deaths: 153,470