A resurgence

Imlisanen Jamir

The COVID-19 virus has made a resurgence in the news cycle. The country has now received a warning that the Covid pandemic, which shook the world for more than two years, may make a comeback once again. The current outbreaks in some countries, including China, once again signify the importance of being vigilant and taking maximum precautions. It is reported that China is currently facing the biggest crisis due to Covid. Hospitals in China are overflowing with Covid patients. The death rate is also on the rise.

Health experts estimate that at least one million people may die of the disease by the end of next year in China alone. Reports are claiming that 60 percent of Chinese people are likely to be infected with Covid-19 and the death rate may be very high.

One thing that could shake COVID complacency is the emergence of one or more ‘variants of concern’ (VoCs). New variants of the virus will emerge over the next year, as they did in 2022. But a VoC designation (and a corresponding Greek letter from the WHO) will be given only if a variant is better at evading the immune system, causes more severe disease or is much more transmissible than those currently circulating. A new VoC must spur action to ensure that fully vaccinated people — especially those who are older or immunocompromised — receive booster doses.

As attention moves to preparations for a new disease — the as-yet-unknown pathogen that could cause the next pandemic — COVID complacency is inflicting death by a thousand cuts on health-care systems reeling from the past three years. The public-health community must continue to strengthen vaccine-manufacturing capacity in LMICs. And it mustn’t forget what experience has shown since 2020: that health-care systems under stress are little able to deal with new threats.

While the number of cases in the country is not alarming, the current rate of disease transmission in other countries proves that many measures taken by China on the issue of Covid were wrong. Although it is unlikely that any severe restrictions and lockdowns would be announced in the early days, we must respect the expert opinion that increased caution and care are needed. We have learned lessons in effectively dealing with Covid. However, caution and care can go a long way in keeping the disease away.

Comments can be sent to imlisanenjamir@gmail.com