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Pandemic and Endemic

Context:

People with Covid-19 will no longer legally need to isolate in United Kingdom and the tests are likely to be scaled back as part of a plan to live with Covid-19. California too has announced a shift to an endemic approach to Covid-19 that will focus on watching out for new variants and reacting quickly to outbreaks rather than issuing mandates for masking indoors.

Relevance:

GS II- Health

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What does endemic stage mean, and are we there yet?
  2. Does it mean we are safer?
  3. Way Forward

What does endemic stage mean, and are we there yet?

  • An infection becomes endemic when the rates become static in a given geographical location, meaning that the pathogen causing the disease — SARS-CoV-2 in this case — is likely to remain in circulation without causing large outbreaks as witnessed over the last two years.
  • Although the number of infections in India is consistently declining, experts say they cannot give a deadline on when the disease will become endemic.
  • It will depend on the number of susceptible people in the population, vaccination rates, and emergence of new variants that are able to evade the immune response.
    • For example, flu which goes up in the winters and when the season is changing because of lower immunity in people or dengue which goes up after monsoons because of the availability of vectors. Covid-19 also may become seasonal and cause disease in the vulnerable
  • An important determinant for whether we can “technically” say that the disease is endemic would be a representative sero-survey (population-level survey of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2) and laboratory susceptibility studies
  • The disease is endemic only after we see that a majority of the people have immunity against the infection either through previous exposure or vaccination.

Does it mean we are safer?

  • A disease becoming endemic does not mean it is harmless. A disease can be endemic and both widespread and deadly.
    • For Example: Malaria killed more than 600,000 people in 2020. Ten million fell ill with tuberculosis that same year and 1.5 million died.
  • Endemic certainly does not mean that evolution has somehow tamed a pathogen so that life simply returns to normal.

Way Forward

  • There is no real benefit in declaring that the disease is now endemic
  • If we live with the new normal, we will be protecting the economy as well.
  • We don’t know when a new variant might emerge. If we look at omicron, it did not cause severe disease in India but in the US it led to high rates of hospitalisations and deaths.
  • US is a smaller country, it is a richer country. We cannot afford to do what they did. We have all suffered, let us not fall into the ditch of a new variant. Precautions should remain in place.
  • Another concern with officially declaring Covid-19 endemic would be fewer resources being made available for measures such as vaccination.

-Source: Indian Express

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October 2022
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