Since the March of 2020, when the World Health Organisation reluctantly declared Covid-19 a pandemic, the world has grappled with a few difficult question -- when will the pandemic be over? More importantly, how will it end? Will the virus ever disappear?
Unfortunately, there have been no easy answers. Worst still, there have been different, varied and conflicting answers as virus is here to stay for years.
What the WHO says on pandemic?
In one of the recent statements, World Health Organisation specified its criteria for calling off the pandemic. When will the WHO call the pandemic over, questioned Aleks Kuzmanovic, from WHO's social media team. But before that, are we even close to the point of pandemic being over? "If we think about the last pandemic in 2009 of influenza, the predominant strain is still transmitting, so is the virus that caused the pandemic," said Dr Mike Ryan, chief of WHO Health Emergencies Programme.
"So I fully expect that this virus will continue to transmit for a very long time. The question is whether it's still causing a public health emergency and that is determined by how many people it's making severely ill, how many people that virus is killing and to what extent we have controlled transmission," says Ryan.
He noted that the WHO's Emergency Committee to declare when a Public Health Emergency of International Concern still exists, and has met a number of times in the last year and a half and it maintains that the public health emergency continues to exist.
Comparisons with the last pandemic
While Covid-19 has been unprecedented in several ways, the word pandemic usually has nothing much to do with severity of illness. Hitherto pandemic has meant that the disease is spreading widely.
While the declaration of pandemic is a trigger warning to all the nations, governments and agencies to activate preparedness, to roll out and ensure all public health safety procedures are in place, to impose necessary restrictions on travel and trade.
The last pandemic before Covid-19 was declared on June 11, 2009 in response to the spread of new influenza H1N1 virus. It was declared over by the WHO in August 2010.
What's the criteria for calling off the pandemic
Dr Ryan also brought down the fight with pandemic to a few key points; equitable vaccination, low transmission levels and herd immunity. "From my perspective, if we continued the roll-out of vaccines in a more equitable way, if we can keep control on the variants and we can get to very high herd immunity levels and good control measures, then if we can bring the death and the hospitalisations and the tragedy of this pandemic, if we can bring that to an end and we can keep transmission to a very low level then I'd consider the pandemic to be over as a public health emergency. But will this virus disappear? No. that's the reality."
So, let's face it!