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Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Ever End?

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February 25, 2021

Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Ever End?

Jennifer Morency

picture Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Ever End?

Is there truly a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel? Will the world go back to what it was, or to a semblance of what it once was? This seems to be on everyone’s mind as the hope brought about by new coronavirus vaccines begins to roll out.

Due to globalization, the SARS-CoV-2 virus started in China and quickly made its way across the globe at an unprecedented rate. This led to countries going into lockdown, albeit several lockdowns for some, and people needing to adopt new habits and lifestyles. It also led to many needing to embrace technology to stay connected, while still practicing social distancing.

Thankfully, not even a year after the coronavirus was first introduced, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, along with newer ones edging towards the manufacturing phase, have begun to be shipped and administered to populations around the world.

As many people are slowly getting accustomed to the new norms of wearing a mask in public, social distancing and following other public safety measures, what can be expected once most of the population receives the COVID-19 vaccine? What will change and what will remain the same? Will the new norm be this norm or the one before that? Perhaps a mix of the two? This article aims to explore the various elements that have changed and forecast what the new future could look like post-pandemic.

Pre and Post Coronavirus Differences

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on people around the world. According to the John’s Hopkins University COVID-19 Map, to date, there are over 112 million global coronavirus cases and 2.5 million deaths have occurred due to the novel virus.

This has led to countries and regions changing their public safety measures, requiring several quarantine periods and asking their populations to adopt new lifestyle habits. The evolution of technology played an important role in keeping certain populations connected and compliant, but it was not foolproof.

Population densities, refusal to wear masks in public, disregarding social distancing and other key factors played an important role in the rising coronavirus cases that were seen in the United States. With 28.2 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S. alone, the healthcare system took a major hit, overwhelming healthcare establishments and workers.

Hospital Surcharges Amidst Rising COVID-19 Cases

The onset of coronavirus cases from the beginning of the pandemic forced the healthcare system to rethink workflows, procedures and distribution of resources. What started out as a rapid influx of patients, a shortage of ventilators and lack of overall knowledge of the virus, quickly turned into mayhem within healthcare establishments.

Hospitals were overwhelmed from the public health crisis, forcing departments to be reorganized and operating at less than 50% capacity, turning away elective surgeries, as well as grappling for essential materials and resources. The healthcare landscape took a turn, resulting in the entire system reevaluating the way it functions and the way it needs to change to accommodate infected patients while still catering to other cases, diseases and more.

This took an incredible toll on healthcare workers and their already surcharged workload. Putting their lives at risk and moving away from family during a pandemic nobody knew a lot about, they continued to care for coronavirus patients and others through harsh work conditions, even when there was a shortage of personal protective equipment. Despite this, they showed resilience by being creative and using ski goggles and other personal equipment to protect themselves during the shortage, all while working overtime and witnessing many patients die from COVID-19.

Will this lead to medical professionals experiencing burnouts at a much larger scale than pre-pandemic? After a year of dealing with this disease, most are emotionally drained and lack the support to deal with such an unparalleled situation. What will the aftermath be like for the exhausted medical community as a whole?

Travel and Globalization

The world of aviation and travel has taken a great hit during the coronavirus pandemic. Personal and business trips were cancelled, and less people travelled unnecessarily in the first months as many countries were in a lockdown. Moreover, many were hit with the reality of product limitations from around the world, as they were no longer readily available to be bought or shipped, changing the way people approached their shopping.

However, it didn’t take long for businesses to open back up and for some to get back to travelling for work. This not only put them at risk, but greatly increased the chances of bringing the virus from one city to another. The same goes for healthcare workers, as some specialists regularly travelled across state lines for consultations or surgeries when patients were unable to do so themselves.

What risks are worth taking when it comes to travelling? What is the necessity of boarding a plane that recycles air and transports potentially infected people from one place to another? Could this have been a virtual call, much like some meetings could have been an email? What constitutes an essential travel plan?

To date, there are over 112 million global coronavirus cases and 2.5 million deaths have occurred due to the novel virus.

The Potential New Norm Post-Coronavirus Pandemic

When we all return to a semblance of normalcy after most of the world’s population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, what can we except that new normal to look like? The world is at a standstill, waiting for the vaccines to reach them and protecting themselves against the virus in the meantime. How will industries, markets and populations change post-pandemic?

Changed Habits

It’s no surprise to note that everyone’s habits and norms have changed since the start of the pandemic. From social distancing to wearing masks in public, new habits have formed and made many hyper aware of personal and public hygiene measures.

Will these current measures continue even after most of the population has been vaccinated? Regular handwashing, avoiding handshakes and more hygiene measures will likely stay post-pandemic. Some might continue to wear masks, avoid large, crowded areas to be safe and even forego public transport.

Throughout the pandemic, it has been proven that crowded and poorly ventilated areas such as indoor stadiums, buses, movie theaters and some offices were deemed superspreading events by scientists, further instilling fear and uncertainty amongst many. Will this affect the way people transit and the activities they choose to partake in? Will companies need to offer work-from-home benefits to keep their employees moving forward?

Only time can tell how the pandemic will affect people on a daily basis and what newly developed and instilled habits are here to stay.

Growing Use of Technology

The COVID-19 pandemic forced people to self-isolate at times and refrain from seeing friends and loved ones. Thankfully, the use of various technologies greatly helped people stay connected, remain active and continue going to school and working during times of lockdown and quarantine.

In the healthcare sector, virtual care became a necessity, allowing medical professionals to screen patients remotely and stay on top of their health from a safe distance. Going further, technology in hospitals can help manage resources, help screen patients and push vaccine research even further.

Medical devices also played an important role during the pandemic, helping in logistics, clinical decision making, drug discoveries, and even helped enhance hospital working conditions.

On the patient side, telemedicine and digital health apps provided a great way to continue preventive care. According to a McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer Survey, telehealth in the United States grew from 11 percent in 2019 to over 46 percent in April 2020. This number only grew from that point on. Providers have even reported seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients through virtual means than they did pre-coronavirus. This allows practitioners to continue preventive care while also avoiding cross-contamination and reducing risk of contagion.

The more technology healthcare establishments implement and utilize now, the better prepared they will be for any future pandemic or public health emergency.

Big Brother Alert

How are governments around the world tracking coronavirus-positive individuals? The term contact tracing has been used quite a lot in the last year. In order to identify people who have been in contact with infected individuals, some countries have implemented public health measures that identify infected individuals and gathers information on all those that have been in contact with them.

This surveillance measure was implemented in the form of a phone tracking application in Canada, Germany, Israel, Singapore, and other countries. Canada’s app, for example, uses Bluetooth and allows individuals to signal that they tested positive for COVID-19, which then sends an anonymous alert to all the individuals that have been in contact with this person.

South Korea, on the other hand, opted in using CCTV footage and phone usage to trace the spread of the virus. This proved to be an effective method and was largely due to the population’s acceptance of surveillance.

Overall, none of the contact tracing measures currently in place truly yielded positive results in containing the virus. In a time of dire need for extraordinary measures, what methods can be qualified as acceptable, and where does the privacy and ethical line lie?

A New Type of Passport

Many countries and governments are exploring the possibility of implementing immunity passports to allow the people who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to continue on with their life much like they did before the pandemic. The immunity passport would allow someone to go about their daily life as usual, without needing to shelter or quarantine when necessary.

This is, of course, not something that has yet to be executed, but rather considered by some, especially by the U.K.’s government. The fears surrounding this type of passport is that some might want to go out and catch the virus to prove immunity and get the new passport whereas some might be forced to stay home without such documentation in hand. It also requires further testing to diminish the potential reporting of false immunities.

Providers are seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients through virtual means than they did pre-coronavirus.

What is the Takeaway?

The distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines definitely provides a positive move forward for the global pandemic. Soon we will be able to explore the world again, or at least walk outside without fear. This will, of course, come with many changes to what we once considered normal. As a global population, we will need to continue exercising certain actions to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the disease for an undetermined period of time.

Moreover, the healthcare system needs to change in order to better protect its workers and ensure they are better prepared for any possible or future pandemics. The increased online presence of many has also resulted in the need to fight misinformation and develop creative ways to reach anti-vaxxers. The more people are vaccinated, the better we are as a whole in fighting off COVID-19 and returning to a semblance of normalcy.