Bloomberg Op-ed: “Start planning for a permanent pandemic”

A Bloomberg op-ed has warned that there is no going “back to normal” as Covid-19 looks set to become “our permanent enemy.”

Writing for Bloomberg.com, columnist Andreas Kluth claims that the “ongoing emergence of new variants that behave almost like new viruses” means vaccinations are unlikely to provide herd immunity against Covid-19 in the long term.

“A clinical vaccine trial in South Africa showed that people in the placebo group who had previously been infected with one strain had no immunity against its mutated descendant and became reinfected. There are similar reports from parts of Brazil that had massive outbreaks and subsequently suffered renewed epidemics,” Kluth writes.

“That leaves only vaccination as a path toward lasting herd immunity. And admittedly, some of the shots available today are still somewhat effective against some of the new variants. But over time they will become powerless against the coming mutations.

“And even if it peters out eventually, our lives and routines will by then have changed irreversibly. Going “back” won’t be an option; the only way is forward. But to what exactly?”

Kluth does admit that Covid-19 is “relatively mild” compared to other pandemics however.

“Smallpox killed nine out of 10 Native Americans after the Spanish brought it to the Americas in the 16th century. The Black Death carried off about half of the Mediterranean population when it first came to Europe in the sixth century. Worldwide, the coronavirus has killed fewer than four in 10,000 so far. And with our science and technology, we’re armed as our ancestors never were.”

He nonetheless insists that “we’re in for seemingly endless cycles of outbreaks and remissions, social restrictions and relaxations, lockdowns and reopenings” if the evolutionary trajectory of Covid-19 persists.

“At least in rich countries, we will probably get vaccinated a couple of times a year, against the latest variant in circulation, but never fast or comprehensively enough to achieve herd immunity.”

The op-ed finishes by claiming “our Brave New World needn’t be dystopian”, but “it won’t look anything like the old world.”

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