Spain, that was so hard hit, is trying to ease the population back to work.
Does all this sound a bit too much, too soon? The World Health Organization thinks this early-onset optimism could backfire. Until we get the global population properly vaccinated, the WHO says Covid-19 will continue to stalk us.
An official with the World Health Organization cautioned that the coronavirus is likely not seasonal but will rather continue sporadically until researchers are able to make a vaccine.
The WHO's special envoy, Dr. David Nabarro, made the remarks during a Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“We’re not so sure that it will come in waves in the way that influenza does,” Nabarro explained. “We think it's going to be a virus that stalks the human race for quite a long to come until we can all have a vaccine that will protect us. And that there will be small outbreaks that will emerge sporadically, and they will break through our defenses.
“So, the key for this particular virus is that every community, as a kind of defensive shield, can pick up cases as soon as they appear, isolate them, and stop outbreaks from developing,” he continued. “It's going to be necessary for every single country to have that capacity.”Meanwhile, The Guardian's Simon Jenkins writes that, at a policy level, we're all flying blind.
The trickle is starting. Spain, Austria, Italy, China, possibly Germany and the US will this week begin, however hesitantly, the great return to work. As others hold back and some may even toughen lockdowns, the result will be the most extraordinary mass experiment in history.
The outcome should go some way to settle the central argument of coronavirus policy, of lockdown and suppression v mitigation and herd immunity. It will also condition a later political blame game, who was right and who was wrong.
In this experiment, only one thing should matter: the evidence. It is the lack of it that has clearly determined the wide diversity in policy responses in different countries. We see a potentially fatal disease, Covid-19, of unusual infectiousness. Yet we have no idea how infectious, because lack of testing means we cannot tell if vast numbers of people have it to some degree, or just a few. The science disagrees. We have no idea if fatality is the outcome for 5% of victims, or 1%, or 0.3% – and therefore how drastic should be the response.
Statistics are in chaos. Death “rates” lag behind deaths. Deaths are confused with “hospital deaths”. Headlines highlight “most cases per nation” or “most deaths per nation”, not deaths per million. Yet we are at the mercy of these statistics. They are the raw material of the modellers, and their models are the sacred entrails into which policymakers peer each day, to see what level of lockdown to impose on their people.Herd immunity? The only way societies are protected by herd immunity is when a substantial percentage of the population has immunity either through previous exposure to the disease or vaccination. That's it, A or B. The B option, a universal vaccine, is months, perhaps a year or more away. Then there's option A, previous exposure. No one knows if a bout of Covid-19 confers immunity on the survivors. There are anecdotal reports of individuals contracting the virus twice. But, even if Covid-19 does confer immunity on those it fails to kill, the percentage of those who have contracted the virus, in the US it's one in several hundred, falls far short of the substantial percentage needed to create effective herd immunity.
Economics has taken a terrible battering this last month, because it is thought to put “money before lives”. But all options cost lives, which is why political judgment has moved to centre stage. Businesses are ruined, dreams shattered, people die. As in the conundrum of the swerving driver, do you avoid one death now, but is it at the cost of five down the road?
The cliche is true. Only time will tell, but that time starts now. The task is to scrutinise the evidence and let it tell the truth, not just the truth we want it to tell.