WHO warning : Covid-19 pandemic is ‘not necessarily the big one’

According to the World Health Organisation, the current pandemic is just a “dry run” for “the big one”. At a media briefing today, WHO experts warned that even though the coronavirus pandemic has been severe, it is “not necessarily the big one”, and the world will have to learn to live with Covid-19. It is likely that the virus will become endemic, even as vaccines begin to be rolled out in the US and UK, according to Professor David Heymann, chair of the WHO’s strategic and technical advisory group for infectious hazards.

“The world had hoped for herd immunity, and that somehow transmission would be decreased if enough persons were immune, but that this concept is often misunderstood.” “It appears the destiny of SARS-CoV-2 [Covid-19] is to become endemic, as have four other human coronaviruses, and that it will continue to mutate as it reproduces in human cells, especially in areas of more intense admission. “Fortunately, we have tools to save lives, and these in combination with good public health will permit us to learn to live with Covid-19.”

Dr Mark Ryan, Head of WHO emergencies programme warned that the next pandemic may be more severe. “This pandemic has been very severe … it has affected every corner of this planet. But this is not necessarily the big one.” “This is a wake-up call. We are learning, now, how to do things better: science, logistics, training and governance, how to communicate better. But the planet is fragile. “We live in an increasingly complex global society. These threats will continue. If there is one thing we need to take from this pandemic, with all of the tragedy and loss, is we need to get our act together. We need to honour those we’ve lost by getting better at what we do every day.” click full article.

The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the end of the year was a time to reflect on the death toll of the pandemic. The year ahead will see new setbacks and challenges, eg new variants of coronavirus of which there have already been two major variants.

So there we have it. This is just a rehearsal for the “big one,” according to the WHO. The Covid-19 mortality profile is almost identical to natural mortality, which is a major bonus. In essence, the mortality profile of the covid-19 coronavirus is essentially zero for children and young adults and near zero below 50, before it begins to rise slowly and then very steeply above 70 and especially above 80, reaching extreme levels in nursing homes. See graphs below :

Covid mortality (solid) and natural mortality (dashed) in men (red) and women (blue) (Spiegelhalter)
Published: September 3, 2020 (updated)
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On the other hand, the 1918 “Spanish flu” virus was a very dangerous virus that had a very different mortality profile. In addition to old people, it also killed babies and young children plus young adults between 20 and 45 years at very high rates (see chart below) click data source

I think the WHO may well be right. A re-run of 1918 would be devastating. Lets learn from this pandemic and put in place a world-wide emergency plan for the “big one”, learning from the many mistakes of this current pandemic. Happy New Year 2021

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