1st Anniversary of the pandemic

A year ago, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the outbreak of a novel coronavirus first detected in China had developed into a global pandemic. The deadly virus that causes Covid-19 was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 before it spread rapidly across the world.

Over the past year, the virus has infected more than 118 million people and taken over 2.6 million lives, as countries have battled the pandemic with unprecedented social-distancing measures and lockdowns. 

Once uncontrolled spread of the virus started outside china, Scientists knew what the likely scenarios were, having seen the out of control spread in China and Italy. They had estimated the virus’s transmissibility (i.e., how contagious it was), they knew it spread through the respiratory system (which upped its pandemic potential), they saw how the virus could overrun hospitals, and they knew this was a novel virus and most people would not have natural immunity to it. The whole world was susceptible to this disease. Plus, they were beginning to see that the virus could spread before people felt symptoms, which made it harder to contain. All of that added up to a long-haul scenario.

So last March, there were two extreme potential scenarios given the information epidemiologists had at the time. One was the catastrophe: The pandemic could have unfolded, without any precautions in place, ripping through the population, killing many more people over roughly a nine-month period. The second scenario was longer, but still painful: The pandemic could be extended to 18 months to two years, and try to save some of our infrastructure and reduce the overall death toll. There was an overwhelming realization that no matter what we did, the only way that we can keep our hospitals safe and try to prevent too many people from dying was to really be persistent about social distancing for a very long time. click full source.

The advocates of following a policy of herd immunity such as Professor Sunetra Gupta and the signatories of The Great Barrington Declaration, which I have fully agreed with and supported for most of the last year, may have been proved wrong. However, a key element of this strategy was focussed protection, which involved active shielding of all vulnerable groups, which has never happened in any country, so we may never know if this strategy could have been successful.

As I have posted recently, Brazil is an example of what can happen in the case of the scenario 1 above. Scientists are concerned Brazil has almost become a “natural laboratory” – where people can see what happens when coronavirus goes relatively unchecked. Some warn the country is now a breeding ground for new variants of the virus, unhindered by effective social distancing and fuelled by vaccine shortages. That’s because the longer a virus circulates in a country, the more chances it has to mutate – in this case giving rise to P1. Global experts are calling for a plan – including rapid vaccination, lockdowns, and strict social distancing measures – to get the situation under control. The worry is that the P1 variant is a looming threat over the progress made in the region and the wider world.

Chart showing daily confirmed coronavirus deaths in Brazil
Brazil’s second wave shows no sign of peaking

Across Brazil, intensive care units (ICU) are at more than 80% capacity, according to Fiocruz. And in 15 state capitals, ICUs are at more than 90% capacity, including in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Reports say the capital Brasilia has now reached full ICU capacity, while two cities – Porto Alegre and Campo Grande – have exceeded capacity. In its report, Fiocruz warned that the figures point to the “overload and even collapse of health systems”. Brazilian epidemiologist Dr Pedro Hallal told the BBC World Service’s Outside Source programme: “If we do not start vaccinating the population here very soon, it will become a massive tragedy.” click full source.

So there we have it. The USA and Brazil both had/have Leaders (Trump and Bolsonaro) who at the height of the pandemic, took a very laissez faire attitude about how it should be managed, and the outcomes are clear. Both countries have had 41 million cases to date (34% of world cases) and 816,000 deaths (31% of world cases), whilst their combined population of 546,000 is only 7% of the world population. QED.

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