The virus that causes COVID-19 could not become more of a threat than the common cold and circulate seasonally without causing great damage, a study predicts.
But US researchers say the timing will depend on how quickly vaccination programs are rolled out and people develop a level of immunity.
The study published in the journal Science predicted that the disease could eventually become less severe each time people caught it, in the same way that the four coronaviruses that cause the common cold seem to boost immunity to each disease.
However, a seasonal, light-circulating illness would only occur once the virus was endemic – the point at which the spread did not cause massive epidemics or serious illness.
It comes as the world’s death toll approaches 2 million and nearly 93 million infections, with new mutated strains around the world spreading faster.
The team at Emory University in Georgia and Penn State University based their modeling on studies of six human coronaviruses, four of which spread regularly among people and cause only mild symptoms.
A key finding revealed that unlike other infections which can be severe in childhood, “CoV-2 may join the ranks of benign endemic human coronaviruses causing long-term cold.”
“A critical prediction is that the severity of emerging CoVs once they reach endemicity depends only on the severity of the infection in children.”
Scientists are still learning how long immunity lasts after getting sick, but evidence suggests that “infection immunity” wears off quickly, while “disease-reducing immunity lasts a long time.”
This means that a person can be re-infected with the coronavirus a few months after infection, but their second, third or fourth time would not be as bad – similar to cold infections.
Researchers say that once the majority of people gain protection from COVID-19, either through natural infection or vaccination, most cases will occur “almost entirely in babies and young children,” which are known to suffer mainly from mild illnesses.
“The time it takes to get to this type of endemic condition depends on how quickly the disease spreads and how quickly the vaccination is rolled out,” said lead study author Jennie Lavine, intern. postdoctoral fellow at Emory University. New York Times.
“So really the whole point of the game is to get everyone exposed to the vaccine for the first time as quickly as possible.”
Without major vaccine deployments, it could take many years of infections and deaths before the coronavirus becomes another seasonal disease, the researchers said.
COVID-19 vaccines are also not 100% effective in preventing infection, so it is likely that the vaccine will be more effective in preventing serious illness in the long term.
Even if new coronavirus strains reappear during the endemic phase, like that from the UK which is now spreading to other countries, the researchers say the immunity acquired from the previous strains “is nonetheless strong enough to prevent serious illness “.
Race to stop new COVID strains
Australian authorities are rushing to find ways to stop new strains of the coronavirus from spreading among our population before it is too late.
And the emerging threat is dividing the rulers of states and territories.
It comes after six people tested positive for the highly contagious British strain at the Grand Chancellor Quarantine Hotel in Brisbane, which has now been closed.
The infections included a British traveler and his partner, a hotel cleaner and his partner, as well as a man and daughter from Lebanon.
There are 18 people isolating themselves in Victoria after staying at a hotel, 14 in Tasmania, 10 in New South Wales and six in Western Australia.
While there is no evidence to suggest the variant is deadlier than others, scientists believe it could be up to 70% more transmissible.
If the opportunity presents itself, this new strain could quickly spread throughout the community and ruin our winning streak against the pandemic.
Australia recorded no local transmission of coronavirus on Thursday.
To deal with the threat of the British strain, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has proposed a nationwide network of backcountry quarantine camps to protect Australians.
She said it was clearly too risky to quarantine travelers in capitals and that she would raise the issue at the next national cabinet meeting on January 22.
According to the proposal, returning travelers would undergo their two-week quarantine in vacant regional mining camps.
However, the idea fell flat in NSW and WA.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it would not be possible for the 3,500 employees working in the state’s hotel quarantine system to be moved to regional camps.
“Based on less than, I think, three incidences over the past year, it wouldn’t make sense for us to move this arrangement out of Sydney,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Meanwhile, WA Premier Mark McGowan has snubbed the Queensland plan, but for an entirely different reason.
He wants to use migrant detention centers like Christmas Island.
“Obviously with the British lineage this is something we should reconsider,” he said.
“These facilities are available and there are experienced staff who can deal with these matters.”
Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews has said he has no plans to change his state’s quarantine system, but has recognized the limitations of CBD hotels.
This came as the state recorded no new coronavirus infections in the community or quarantined in hotels, on the eighth day in a row with no locally acquired cases in the state.
As a result, Victoria’s health official found it safe for workers to return to their offices from next week, after an outbreak in the New Year halted the return to the scene. of work.
As of Monday, the Victorian Civil Service will return to office at 25 percent of its capacity and other workplaces may increase up to 50 percent.
From midnight Sunday, the mandatory mask rules will be relaxed to the pre-Christmas rules.
This means that masks remain mandatory on flights, public transport, taxis and ride-sharing vehicles, supermarkets and large indoor shopping malls.
They will no longer be mandatory in offices, but it is recommended to wear them where physical distance is not possible.