The simple answer is no one knows for sure when the world will firmly and effectively dispense with the Covid-19 pandemic. Ours is an uncertain world, not easily amenable to prediction.
In the early days of the pandemic last year, many commentators speculated in earnest about a post-Covid-19 world. We have had research projects and papers published making forecasts and predictions on a range of issues ostensibly after the pandemic is gone.
Problem is, close to two years now since the virus first emerged in China late 2019, there is no assurance that we will in fact be without the virus any time soon. Other people have talked up getting used to the ‘new normal,’ but there is really not a single and stable ‘normal’ about this virus that we all can measure up to and live with.
I know nothing about medical science, let alone virology, but my intuition in the early stages last year was to say we might very well be up for something utterly mysterious and protracted. Covid-19 is called a novel virus. It’s new.
Scientists and specialists did not know much about it when it broke out except for its similarities with other related respiratory ailments. They have crunched up things and explored all possible scientific processes and procedures to get a firm handle.
They have succeeded on many fronts and now know a lot they did not know early last year, but the virus has not sat idly to be nailed and dumped: it has kept mutating and evolving, dodging and remerging in newish forms to keep up its havoc.
Medical advice has kept evolving. New protocols and standards keep emerging. Preventive measures like masks and social distancing appear to make a big difference, but the virus is able to press on because such measures only lower the risk but do not eliminate the threat altogether.
Vaccines are the gold standard for protection but they are not bullet-proof jackets. Vaccines are often given a percentage of effectiveness, say 75 per cent, meaning there is no 100 per cent guarantee that everyone vaccinated is fully insulated.
But there is overwhelming scientific evidence that being vaccinated significantly lowers the risk of getting infected, reduces the chances of spreading the virus if it forces its way into an otherwise vaccinated body and lastly, being vaccinated prevents one from severe sickness when they get infected.
I got vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson one-shot vaccine in April. The current wave that forced a national lockdown in Uganda found me in Kampala. I could literally smell Covid in the air. I strongly believe that I could easily have caught the virus and perhaps ended up very sick had I not been vaccinated.
Even with my fully vaccinated status, I have stuck to masking and social distancing whenever in public where there are many people or when I have gone to a shop or a restaurant. I suspect that we shall remain in this state for a while. Talk of post-Covid remains rather premature speculation.
With all the tumult and uncertainty wrought by the pandemic, citizens all over the world have turned their fury on authorities, scientists and the media. Governments and leaders are faulted for imposing far-reaching and draconian measures. Scientists are blamed for misadvising and getting things wrong. The media has been on the receiving end for supposedly hyping the pandemic.
Last point first. No one should hype a public health emergency, but no one should downplay it either. This virus has taken lives and destroyed livelihoods. The media have to temper their reporting and nuance their analysis, but members of the public too have to maintain vigilance and avoid falling for conspiracies.
As for scientists, science is not magic. Medical scientists do their best in figuring out things, but they are not magicians whose findings and answers are infallible. Scientists deal with what they know at a specific time. They investigate and make statistical conclusions based on available evidence and data.
Today, scientists are dealing with an elusive and evolving virus. It mutates and changes, becoming more infectious and deadly. The good news is that they don’t have to go back to scratch, that is why they were able to produce vaccines in record time basing on prior knowledge and infrastructure built in tackling previous and related respiratory diseases.
Lastly, authorities and governments have the mandate to protect and safeguard life. But they cannot love lives more than owners of those lives.
Draconian measures and brute force against human beings tend to fail. The solution is for all of us to listen, to be reasonable, responsible and responsive. Just may be we shall realise a post-Covid world soon.