Various measures are being taken to stop the spread of CoVID-19 in many countries around the world. They range from banning mass events, closing entertainment centers, bars and restaurants, to closing schools and in some places even complete self – isolation-when people are forced to stay at home for a long time. The situation is compounded by a sense of uncertainty – today, no one knows when the pandemic will end and what long-term consequences it may lead to. To predict further developments, scientists from Harvard University conducted a study, the results of which state that in 2020, in some countries of the world, social distancing measures can be applied as necessary. However, this will not happen if a vaccine or effective drug is invented to treat CoVID-19. So how long are we going to stay at home?
Be prepared to review your plans for the coming months
How to deal with the new coronavirus pandemic?
Social distancing is a set of sanitary and epidemiological actions aimed at slowing or stopping the spread of a contagious disease.
Although self-isolation is a form of social distance, there is an important difference between them. Self-isolation and quarantine are aimed at preventing transmission of the virus to people who are infected or are known to have had contact with infected people. And social distancing is a broader measure to stop the disease from spreading. And we may have to keep our distance from others for a while. The fact is that at the moment, scientists do not know about the timing of the production of a safe and effective vaccine, or whether the new drug will work to eliminate CoVID-19.
Quarantine is a set of anti-epidemic regime measures aimed at limiting contact between people or infected animals, goods, vehicles, territories, areas, etc.
The greatest concern of epidemiologists around the world is the fact that social distancing can hold back the peak of the spread of the coronavirus until the end of the year, but then a second wave may follow, as it did during the Spanish flu pandemic. For other important lessons that can be learned from the 1918 pandemic, see Daria Yeletskaya’s article. But why has social distance become such an important strategy in the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic?
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It is believed that each person infected with CoVID-19 can infect an average of 2-3 people in the early stages of the outbreak. This infection rate is measured by epidemiologists using the so-called “infection rate” R0. For comparison, the r0 of the flu virus, depending on the strain, varies from 1.06 to 3.4. According to BBC Future, according to the results of another study, the R0 of the Spanish flu is approximately 1.8. And the R0 of rhinovirus, which causes a common cold, is 1.2 – 1.83. According to most estimates of the propagation rate of SARS-CoV-2, R0 ranges from 1.4 to 3.9.
The incubation period – the time between infection and the onset of symptoms – is about five days, although according to research in China, it can take up to 14 days or more for symptoms to manifest. If you are infected and lead a normal lifestyle, you will most likely pass the virus to two or three friends or family members, who can then infect 2-3 more people. So within one month, one case of CoVID-19 infection can lead to 244 others. And in two months, this figure will soar to 59,604. It was found that the time between infection with CoVID-19 and the onset of symptoms is on average about five days.
Why is social distancing effective?
However, the virus can also spread from infected people who do not show symptoms. Thus, the results of another study showed that asymptomatic transmission of the virus can occur in 10% of cases. It is estimated that 1% to 3% of people infected with the new coronavirus will not show symptoms. And if such people knew about their diagnosis and followed the rules of social distance, they would prevent the spread of CoVID-19.
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One of the main goals of social distancing is to delay the spread of the virus so that people get sick more slowly. The idea is to extend the time period during which the virus passes through the population and push the peak of incidence to a later time. But what happens in real life?
While different countries apply different approaches to containing the coronavirus, scientists at Imperial College London have published computer simulations that show that a second wave of CoVID-19 is almost inevitable after the removal of quarantine measures.
This means that in the most optimistic scenario – namely, the development and mass production of the vaccine within 12-18 months, you and I will have to follow the method of social distancing in one form or another. I understand that this is not the best news, but the main thing is that in the current conditions, we can contain the spread of CoVID-19 and reduce the burden on the health care system. This will help save many lives. Let us not forget that the pandemic will end one day and we will do everything possible to do so.