The Grapevine

COVID-19 Pandemic: Study Predicts Scary Future With More Restrictions, Deaths

Without proper mitigation, 2.2 million people might die because of COVID-19 in the U.S. That is according to a new study that predicts the future of populations that are already suffering from the effects of the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus. 

No vaccine is available to help block the virus. Health authorities in many countries currently look at social distancing and home isolation as the main ways that could help slow down the spread of COVID-19. 

However, without an effective vaccine, researchers predict that such suppression measures would remain for more than a year or longer in and outside the U.S. But if restrictions fail, the virus may affect more and cause hundreds of thousands of deaths, according to a report by the Imperial College of London COVID-19 Response Team and infectious disease experts.

The team said governments need to implement multiple intervention strategies to at least slow down COVID-19. Mitigation and suppression are the two main efforts that could help address the pandemic. 

These strategies involve putting infected individuals on quarantine and isolating those who are not infected by novel coronavirus to prevent transmission, IFLScience reported Tuesday.

“We find that that optimal mitigation policies (combining home isolation of suspect cases, home quarantine of those living in the same household as suspect cases, and social distancing of the elderly and others at most risk of severe disease) might reduce peak healthcare demand by 2/3 and deaths by half,” researchers said in the report. “However, the resulting mitigated epidemic would still likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over.”

China, France, Italy and Spain are among the countries that have already put lockdown measures in place to contain the virus. Other affected countries have also closed schools and suspended large gatherings or events amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The study paints a sobering picture with marked differences to previous estimates, showing clearly that mitigation will not only be insufficient to prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed, but also has little impact on the overall numbers of severe cases and deaths over time,” Stephen Griffin, associate professor at Leeds Institute of Medical Research and the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the study, said. 

Early this week, researchers reported that they are about to begin early stages of clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine. However, it may take time before the public gets access to the vaccine. 

Health experts said that the process would take one to two years to complete the vaccine against COVID-19. 

COVID-19 Pandemic The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said organizers should suspend or cancel large events or gatherings for the next eight weeks in the U.S. to help control the spread of COVID-19. Pixabay

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