Based on evidence of the plethora of adverse effects of Covid-19, scientific experts and government agencies have been compelled to take into account what the future of pandemics may look like in terms of preparing for any future disease outbreak. To help you comprehend, I’ll go through a brief overview of prior SARS-CoV-2 viral strain epidemics. Essentially, the current Covid-19 pandemic is not the first coronavirus outbreak to affect people; in earlier years, we saw outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, both of which were caused by coronaviruses. Hence, Covid-19 is the third coronavirus outbreak in less than two decades.
Scientists are still investigating how the newest strain developed and how it infiltrated the human population. Covid-19’s origin is unknown at the moment. Several animals have been implicated in earlier coronavirus epidemics, but the actual origin of the present SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) pandemic is still unknown. Bats are viewed as the reservoir of these viruses, and they transfer the virus to people via intermediate animal hosts without being sick since they are regularly exposed to such infections, resulting in a less nuanced immune response to coronaviruses than humans. The intermediate host for Covid-19 is yet to be found; nevertheless, a variety of animal species are being evaluated as probable intermediate hosts for Covid-19. However, no strong confirmation has been obtained. Pangolins and snakes are hypothesised to be the intermediate hosts since the first episodes of Covid-19 were attributed to the Wuhan wet animal market, where these species were sold. Further research is needed to establish a solid conclusion.
A recent report published in the journal ‘Science of the Total Environment’ emphasised that climate change directly influenced environmental changes that allowed bat species to thrive where they would not have otherwise, resulting in the intrusion of dozens of more species in China and nearby areas. Thus, the increase of bats in China as a result of climate change has been identified as a possible cause of the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on this, scientists are now advocating that climate change be handled not just to safeguard the planet’s future, but also to address the risk of future pandemics.
When assessing the vaccinations claimed to provide the best protection against the Covid-19 pandemic, keep in mind that the vaccine is not the end of the pandemic tale. There is a possibility that the virus will evolve and evade the vaccine’s protection. As a result, the future will most likely be strongly influenced by how governments handle restrictions on social behaviour. Data demonstrate that various nations responded to the pandemic in a variety of ways and that the disparities in responses resulted in disparities in outcomes. There are several lessons to be drawn from the ways in which social distancing techniques have been effective and ineffective in reducing the spread of the disease. Despite the fact that much has been learned about SARS-CoV-2 in a short amount of time, there is still a lot of uncertainty about how the virus may evolve. Although Covid-19 vaccines are being administered rapidly and urgently in many countries, human behaviour strategies are likely to continue to play a part in the future of the Covid-19 pandemic and potential pandemics in future.
Many experts believe that we are entering a new phase of the epidemic rather than the conclusion of the pandemic, and they emphasise the importance of fine-tuning government-implemented limitations such that they are effective but also bearable. It is probable that restrictions will be imposed to some degree in the future, not just to fight Covid-19, but also to avoid future pandemics.
Finally, the question is how will the world change after Covid-19? With some continued restrictions expected in the near future, a return to normal living seems unlikely. It is predicted that the norm will change in order to stay ahead of any future pandemics and avoid the massive loss of life caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Workplaces will almost certainly continue to accept some sort of telecommuting, and the modern technology is ready to enable telecommuting. There are several advantages for both individuals and companies in this. Another industry that will most likely have a long-term influence is travel. Wearing facial covers on public transportation and avoiding overcrowding will remain priorities. Furthermore, foreign travel will continue to be under scrutiny. Hence it can be predicted that infectious disease outbreaks are expected to be closely monitored across the world, with travel corridors and border restrictions remaining in place for the prevention of pandemics like Covid-19.
Finally, periodic lockdowns may become the “new normal,” with governments learning from previous methods as well as those of others. We may reach a stage when suitable measures must be enforced temporarily to prevent the spread of infectious disease before it becomes uncontrollable.
Bottomline: The future of pandemics will be determined in part by the ongoing evolution of SARS-CoV-2, citizen behaviour, government decisions about how to respond to the pandemic, progress in vaccine development and treatments, and a broader range of disciplines in the sciences and humanities that are focused on both ending this pandemic and learning how to reduce the impacts of future zoonotic diseases.
—The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Khalsa College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Amritsar. [email protected]