There are European governments that already think about extending the restrictive measures to the summer, while a vaccine is not expected before a year.
The confinements began with two weeks. But all are lengthening. China, where the pandemic started, has taken three months to control its expansion. And the vaccine experts believe that there will be no vaccine before 12-18 months. So how long is this going to last? In reality, nobody is capable of putting an end to it. Of course, what the health authorities and the rulers want is to reduce the collapse of the health systems through confinement. But they are also aware that they cannot perpetuate the economic slowdown. And with these variables, they are making decisions, sometimes contradictory and in relation to the world through which the pandemic is spreading.
In Europe, at the moment, the governments are prolonging the confinements, most of which were decreed days or weeks after the outbreak was detected in the continent, until the end of April or the beginning of May. That is, more than a month.
For example, the UK has considered “completely plausible” that the pandemic will last “several months”. This was stated by Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the UK’s second-highest medical authority.
However, in one of his daily appearances, until he fell ill, Boris Johnson said on March 19, “We can change course in the next 12 weeks.”
Johnson said: “I am absolutely certain that we can banish the coronavirus, but only if we all take the steps described. I know we are asking for a lot, but it is crucial to saving thousands of lives.” He then multiplied the confusion by admitting that the country may not be on a “downward path until the end of June.”
The UK’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, has said: “Placing absolute deadlines on things is not possible.”
Months or weeks?
Although there are some twenty countries that have decreed confinement measures, US President Donald Trump; and the Brazilian, Jair Bolsonaro, have acted in reverse.
Trump himself said that the American economy would return to normal in three weeks before verifying that this could not be.
Similarly, Donald Trump came to boast of the absence of deceased in the United States while accusing the media of hysteria.
But this Sunday, Donald Trump extended the validity of the guidelines for the distance between people until April 30, which shows that his promises to return to economic normality at Easter will not be fulfilled: “Nothing could make things worse to sing victory before it has expired, “Trump said after suggesting that there are still two weeks left for the peak of infections.
The short-term strategy of the countries that are decreeing the confinements is to reduce the cases as much as possible to avoid that the hospitals are overwhelmed, that the ICUs do not remain without beds so that the deaths do not increase. Once the multiplication of cases stops, some measures can be allowed to be temporarily lifted, until the instances increase again – if this happens – and another round of restrictions is needed.
The German government, for its part, has said that it will not lift restrictions on public life until April 20; French, until 17; the Belgian, until 19; and Italy, which was due to review its own closure measures on April 3, has said it could be extended until July 31 – although there are more optimistic studies. Spain, for its part, continued its state of alert and reinforced the restrictions that accompany it, until April 11.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier declared on March 17 that the crisis caused by the coronavirus “will surely have consequences throughout April and all of May” and that he expects that until then there will be “a substantial number of new infections”. But that forecast already seems to have been exceeded.
In fact, other voices in that country warn that the coronavirus pandemic could last for “a period of two years.” In an appearance before the press, the president of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, has indicated that his organism works with the hypothesis that the pandemic can last for two years, although the duration will depend on when you can have a vaccine. “We are assuming a period of two years,” he assured.
“In the best scenario”, in which the measures have all the desired effects and the cases are reduced, the epidemiological situation may last “two months,” said Fernando Simón, the director of the Alerts coordination centre a few weeks ago. Spanish government: one month of restrictive measures –which would be reduced– until there are no positives, and then another month –two incubation periods– in which it is verified that there is no transmission –in which there are no longer any policies that affect the population-.
In worse scenarios, where the measures do not take effect so quickly, the situation can last “up to 4 or 5 months”. That is, the minimum time to take the epidemic for contained is two months, although that does not mean that the restrictive measures will last all that time.
In any case, the European Commission, for example, although it has taken for granted that the closure of internal and external borders has so far been set at one month – until mid-April -, it has removed the requirements for airport slots to avoid ghost flights for six months.
Landing to normal
According to a BBC report, there are three ways to return to normal. And neither is fast.
The first is the vaccine route, and to contain the virus, the vaccine must reach at least 60% of the population. Vaccine research is being carried out at high speed, but there are no guarantees of anything, and no one expects them before 12-18 months.
The second is a natural immunization. But this could take years to occur. According to Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, quoted by the BBC: “We are talking about suppressing transmission to a level where, hopefully, only a tiny fraction of the country will become infected.” Ferguson calculates “more than two years”.
In addition, there are doubts about how long the immunity will last.
And the third landing strip that the BBC explained was to change people’s behaviour to keep transmission rates low. This could include maintaining some of the measures that have been enacted, or the introduction of rigorous testing and isolation of patients, attempting early detection and tracing of contacts. This could also be helped by the development of more effective drugs against Covid-19.
While a part of the world multiplies sick and deceased, it is confined to avoid infections that collapse health and, therefore, the cure of its patients, in countries where the pandemic has not yet reached with force – or has not been detected– the leaders not only do not set deadlines to return to normal but do not try to maintain it.
For example, the Nicaraguan vice president, Rosario Morillo, has called for massive “love marches in times of the covid-19”, defying international calls to restrict concentrations of people.
Meanwhile, the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, before asking his citizens to stay at home, appealed to the ancient Mexican fortress:
In Israel, meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commends himself to God to defeat the virus.
Meanwhile, in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro acts as if the coronavirus were another constipate, despite having been classified as a pandemic by the WHO. And he said: “Our lives have to go on. We have to keep our jobs, and we must return to normality.”
WHO Executive Director for Health Emergencies, Mike Ryan, in any case, has said that there remains uncertainty about how long the current pandemic will last, as different regions are in different situations. “Many countries have just started confinements, while others like China and Singapore are now desperately fighting to try to keep the coronavirus from coming back,” he explained, noting that “the chain of transmissions can only be broken when cases are confirmed and followed to your contacts. “