Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

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Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Now the COVID-19 Pandemic – What Next?

October 8, 2020 · No Comments · COVID19, Uncategorized

Now the Pandemic – Next What?

I had just finished my certification exam to be able to work as a doctor in Albania, when I heard the news about a respiratory virus that was spreading across China. I remember most of the people back then did not seem to be worried about it, but I had a little bit of curiosity to know more on what was going on.

And everytime I have a curiosity to learn something I turn to the academia world on Twitter. 

Yes, exactly like that…you learn from the best and for free. I started following Marc Lipsitch (infectious disease epidemiologist and director at the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard Chan), Helen Branswell (Canadian infectious diseases and global health reporter at Stat News). Helen led coverage of many pandemics before like Ebola, Zika, and SARS.


 Jody Lanard, is a former WHO senior advisor on influenza pandemics and together with Peter Sandman (expert risk communication) shared their lessons learned from working on previous pandemics.

These people on Twitter were the first one to say that it was past time to tell the public “It Will Probably Go Pandemic”, and We Should All Prepare Now. 


The information that they were sharing was requiring immediate action to be taken, and they were all talking about a risk which I could not sense from other sources in the media. The virus looked far away in China, but looked really close home from Twitter. I remember one tweet which stayed for me during all this time. It was the end of February and it said

 “The world as we know it, is over.” 


I was shocked.  I did not want to believe it. I kept on telling myself that everything will turn to normal. We will overcome this, and we will go back to normality again, which I believe would happen by this summer.  And as we all know now, this is far from happening.


So what are some of the predictions for the future:


First of all, as a paper from Nature explains it, the future of the pandemic will depend on when a vaccine will become available or not and how long the immunity from the virus lasts.

A study from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy explains three scenarios that might happen.


Scenario number 1: the current wave we had in spring will be followed by a consistently bumpy ride of “peaks and valleys” that will gradually diminish over a year or two.


Scenario number 2:  the current wave will be followed by a larger “fall peak,” or perhaps a winter peak, with subsequent smaller waves thereafter.


Scenario number 3: the current wave we had will be followed with “less pronounced” ups and downs.


So exactly how long the virus is going to say remains to be seen, – but one thing is clear, – even after the vaccine and better treatment will be developed, the world will be reshaped. 


1. All the inequalities and disparities regarding health and health care re-emerged.

They have always been there, but societies have tried to hide them. COVID-19 is disproportionately hitting Black and Latinx. They do not just have chronic conditions which are a risk factor for worsen outcomes from COVID-19, but they have also have other social determinants like: more likely to work in service industries where exposure is higher, more likely to live in the same household with multiple generations, less likely tp have access to health coverage and healthcare services.

As Dora Hughes M.D., M.P.H explains it in this interview the systems and structural drivers of inequities that are seen during this pandemic need to be addressed at a community level, at state level so we do not just go back to where we were, but we get to where we should be, we move forward.

So now that we are more aware of the shocking magnitude of health disparities, a lot more pressure will be put on policymakers to take future actions for the issue.


2. It is a Global Issue


As I have previously addressed it on my blog regarding the Sustainable Development Goals, COVID-19 has reversed the work done to achieve the goals. So the future will look with a lot more extreme poverty, hunger and food insecurity. The GDP is expected to decline by 4.2% only in 2020, and a lot of companies which have an impact on the economy, will not make it alive after the pandemic. Local newspapers, department stores not offering online shopping, and higher education are the three industries most likely to be affected, as explained by David Leonhardt in his New York Times Article


3. Who wants to work at the office anymore


Zoom in the beginning was boring, and energy consuming, but now everyone seems pretty happy with doing work from the comfortness of their own home. Working from home is efficient, it saves time and allows for more flexibility. A lot of companies don’t expect to use as much office space as they used before. So even after the pandemic is over, a lot of companies might give their employers the option to fully work from home. 


After all, does the future really look so dark? 


This is not the first pandemic ever. The Black Death, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression. We have learned not just to survive, but to come out stronger. 

In only the first months of quarantine we shifted the way we work and the way we teach and learn, to working from home and studying online. We bought our food online, and held our doctor’s appointment through Zoom. 

We are built to respond to acute change and stressors, and to constantly make our lives better. And if it is one thing that history teaches is that “most of the things won’t change”.





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