What a difference a few months can make.
As countries and cities continue to enforce social distancing, encourage self-isolation policies, and postpone major events (including the Olympics), cases of people being diagnosed as positive with COVID-19 are climbing every single day – even in Singapore. Despite being in the middle of a Circuit Breaker measure that basically put the whole nation on a “stay home notice”, cases are still hitting record high every other day. On the 18th of April, Singapore reports a new record high of 942 new cases – totaling up to 6588 cases.
One question is likely on your mind a lot: When will this pandemic end?
The short answer is: no one can say for certain. But infectious disease specialists and researchers have some thoughts to help put this global health situation into perspective.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing isolation have meant that many of us have had to adjust our daily lives. Living in self-isolation has profound socio-political implications, in addition to the effects that it has on a person’s mental health and well-being. Although more and more studies are showing that quarantine and isolation methods are indeed effective and that we should all continue to keep our physical distance, it is hard not to grow impatient and wonder how long this is likely to last.
Social distancing will need to last 1 to 3 months at minimum, potentially longer.
Keeping schools closed and encouraging people to generally stay home could suppress the pandemic after five months, according to the Imperial College London report. But once such restrictions are lifted the virus would, in all probability, come roaring back. Until a vaccine becomes available, potentially in 12 to 18 months, the report argues that major, society-wide social distancing measures are necessary.
We could get a big break if the virus’ spread slows with warmer weather, though so far there’s no indication that will happen. “That would be a great stroke of luck,” says Maciej Boni, an epidemiologist at Penn State University, and may allow more people to return to work once the number of new cases begins to fall.
An end in sight?
Truth is, you’ll have to go with the flow as novel coronavirus continues, as the future remains unknown. But ultimately, the future of the novel coronavirus pandemic depends on how we respond to it together, and there’s plenty you can do to help, experts agree.
Follow the rules regarding social distancing and self-isolation in your location, stay calm (as much as you can!) and stick to the basics, too. Wash your hands often, keep them away from your face, know what symptoms to look out for, stay in and away from at-risk populations (like the elderly and immune-compromised) when you’re sick, and encourage your friends and family to follow suit.
Stay home and stay safe!