Repeated Bouts Of Social Distancing May Be Needed Until 2022: Harvard Study

Hospital stock

Some people are reluctant to attend Accident and Emergency departments

"Intermittent distance may be required until 2022 unless the capacity for intensive care is significantly increased or treatment or a vaccine is available", they wrote in their report.

The computer simulations, described in a study published online today by the journal Science, assume that the patterns of transmission for the coronavirus behind COVID-19 lie somewhere between the common cold and pandemic flu. The other two coronaviruses are NL63 and 229E.

One thing however is nearly certain: the virus is here to stay.

The viruses prefer cool and dry conditions and don't thrive as well in heat and humidity.

The modelling shows the betacoronaviruses were more transmissible in fall and winter, with transmissibility dropping off as spring arrived.

The findings will be used as the basis of further study specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers also say the United States could see a resurgence in cases once social distancing measures are lifted, even in July or August, contradicting suggestions as recently as mid-March that the virus may not survive the warm-weather months.

Already, scientists at Oxford University are working on a vaccine and recruiting volunteers for the first clinical trial in the Thames Valley area, outside London. In other words, unless a vaccine is readily available.

The extent of population immunity to the virus will be "very valuable" to understand what will happen with COVID-19 in coming years, Grad said.

"It does seem likely that, under a wide range of parameter values, SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] will continue to circulate as a seasonal wintertime virus", said lead researcher Stephen Kissler, a research fellow of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston.

To help determine the way forward, the researchers say that a better understanding of immunity to the virus is key, as is epidemiological surveillance of the disease, which can be done through widespread testing and contact tracing.

Research at Western University has shown that, if someone was to cough directly toward another, the globally recognized two-metre social distancing rule won't make much of a difference.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted this month among 4,917 US adults found that 27% of black people personally knew someone who was hospitalized with or died from COVID-19, compared to just 1 in 10 white and Hispanic people.

"It is important to recognise that it is a model; it is consistent with current data but is nonetheless based on a series of assumptions - for example about acquired immunity - that are yet to be confirmed".

"To shorten the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic and ensure adequate care for the critically ill, increasing critical care capacity and developing additional interventions are urgent priorities", the researchers wrote. "The study should therefore be regarded as suggesting possible scenarios rather than making firm predictions".

Latest News