As cities reopen, there's a sense that normalcy isn't too far around the corner. Don't be fooled. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief science officer at the World Health Organization in Geneva, said Tuesday, speaking to reporters during a virtual meeting hosted by the United Nations Foundation, that we're still in the middle of it. "The way that people are picturing it is that in January you have vaccines for the whole world and things will start going back to normal," Swaminathan told reporters. But that "is not how it works." Read on for her realistic prediction for how long this will last—and to protect your health, and the health of others, don't miss this essential list of the Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Dr. Swaminathan Said This Will Last For a 'Long Time to Come'
"We're looking at 2022 at least before enough people start getting the vaccine to build immunity. So for a long time to come, we have to maintain the same kind of measures that are currently being put in place with physical distancing, the masking and respiratory hygiene," said Swaminathan. "Those will have to continue after the vaccine starts getting rolled out, because we need 60% to 70% of the population to have immunity before you will start seeing a dramatic reduction in transmission of this virus," Swaminathan said. "We also don't know how long these vaccines will protect for—that's the other big question mark: How long does immunity last? And it's possible that you will need a booster."
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Bill Gates Agrees With This Assessment
Swaminathan's remarks come the same week as an interview Bill Gates gave to New York Magazine. "In the very best case, two years from now, you would be, for some of the health things in particular, ideally back at where you were at the beginning of 2020," said the tech guru and philanthropist, credited by some with predicting the pandemic in a 2015 Ted Talk. "That is, if we're lucky enough that several of these vaccines work, including the ones that are low cost enough that we can scale the manufacturing. And if we get the factories going and we get the money to buy it for the entire world….In that case, during 2021, the pandemic is going down, and in 2022, the global pandemic comes to an end. Could we sit here two years from now and say, "Okay, during that time, not only did we end the pandemic; did we also restore the vaccination services and catch up to the kids that got missed? Could we restore the malaria work and HIV work that was lost to the pandemic?"
As for yourself: To shorten the lifespan of COVID-19, wear a mask, social distance, only run essential errands, avoid crowds—and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.