As a new year is dawning under the gloomy shadow of mutated coronavirus, the world is getting ready to battle a new wave. With Omicron cases already touching the highest peaks of COVID-infections in their lifetime, the ranging question on everyone’s mind is; Will the Pandemic end in 2022?
Are we really close to saying goodbye to the COVID pandemic in 2022?
The End of the Pandemic
The good news is that the COVID pandemic is likely to end by the end of 2022. Though eradicating the virus might not be possible (at least for now), but the pandemic might mellow down to an endemic phase. The virus will still keep infecting people in parts of the world, year along, but its prevalence and impact will reduce down to be like mere flu.
In order to be classified as in the endemic phase, an infectious disease must show more or less stable infections over the years rather than sudden spikes, as Covid-19 has been doing. Fortunately, after two years of devastation, the reproductive number of the coronavirus can fall down to one, thus categorizing it as an endemic.
Will Omicron Push the End Line or Bring us Even Closer to It?
Omicron infection cases are ramping up at an exponential rate across the globe. This highly contagious mutation could mean that a majority of the population will be infected by the virus. Therefore, a huge population will be able to build a natural immunity to the infection.
Overburdens of the hospitals, and staffing shortages in the previous waves, ended taking millions of lives globally. Therefore, in the long run, the hospitalization and death rates will be the deciding factor of whether or not Omicron will be the end of the pandemic.
With governments reimposing precautionary restrictions, the world is still in crisis mode. But, despite the dire headlines that might not withstand, the world is at a much better place today than it was in March 2020. Living and surviving the viral infection over the past two years, we have been able to deduce important information about the virus pattern. As a result, we are equipped with the knowledge, technology, and tools to end the pandemic.
Director-General, WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says, 2022 could be the end of the COVID pandemic- but on one condition. Ever since WHO first notified the world about an unknown pneumonia strain in China, the organization has constantly warned of increasing inequity in vaccine distribution.
Data reveals that over 50% of the population in the high-income countries are fully vaccinated, while the numbers lay low in lower and middle-income countries.
WHO Chief says, “Narrow nationalism and vaccine hoarding by some countries have undermined equity and created the ideal condition for the emergence of the Omicron variant. The longer inequality continues, the higher risks the virus evolving in ways we can’t prevent or predict.” He further concluded the statement, saying, “If we end inequity, we end the pandemic.”
Since the early days, the medicinal sciences have come a long way to finding the most viable meds for treating the infection. From the development of the coronavirus vaccines in record time to the use of non-pharmacological interventions to significantly increase the chances of survival, the pandemic has been a roller coaster.
Another significant milestone adding to the pandemic are oral drugs like PAXLOVID and molnupiravir. According to the reports by Pfizer, PAXLOVID declines the risk of death or hospitalization by 70% in standard-risk patients and 89% in high-risk patients.
These oral therapeutics could substantially help in curbing the spread, especially in low-resources regions, where infused treatment and vaccines are a luxury. Moreover, the small molecules can be manufactured far rapidly than vaccine shots.
The cherry on top is the initial shreds of evidence highlighting no reduction in the efficacy of the medicine in the Omicron Variant. Moreover, the rapid distribution of these oral therapeutics across the most vulnerable regions will further make the infection less severe, taking the world a step closer to ending the pandemic.
COVID Won’t Completely Disappear
Despite the fact that the end seems to be in sight, it won’t be very reasonable to take another prediction as sureshot words and let the guards down. The mounting Coronavirus cases, loss of livelihoods, and lives the world around are a daylight reality.
The Omicron variant is a sobering reminder that the Coronavirus has the advantage of producing mutated variants rapidly. As a result, the severity and spread of the disease cannot be undermined. Dr. Michael Raya, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergency Program, says, “the acute phase of COVID will end in 2022, but it won’t completely disappear.”