The benefits of elimination attempts have greatly diminished with rising vaccination rates and more effective treatment strategies for COVID-19, write Alanna Golden, Jennifer Grant, Jocelyn Srigley and Shawn Whatley in the National Post. Below is an excerpt from the article, which can be read in full here.
By Alanna Golden, Jennifer Grant, Jocelyn Srigley and Shawn Whatley, August 20, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has often been described as unprecedented, even though, throughout history, we have repeatedly witnessed the spread of pandemic diseases — pathogens we still live with to this day.
Thanks to improved sanitation and cleanliness, early pandemics such as typhoid fever, bubonic plague and cholera are now rare in most parts of the world. On the other hand, relatives of more recent pandemic influenza viruses — such as the Spanish flu of 1918, the Asian flu of 1957, the Hong Kong flu of 1968 and, most recently, the swine flu of 2009 — still exist and circulate each fall and winter.
Only one human pandemic disease, smallpox, has ever been eradicated. Respiratory viruses like SARS‑CoV‑2 are likely impossible to eradicate because they mutate frequently to evade the immune system, they can reside in animal reservoirs and they are widely distributed around the world.
Early on in the pandemic, some countries, such as Australia, tried to implement “COVID-zero” policies, with the aim of keeping out all cases using mandatory hotel quarantines and travel bans. By July 2020, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer declared that eliminating COVID-19 was a “false hope.” Today, half of Australia’s population is back in lockdown as many parts of the world plow ahead with reopening.
Indeed, recent experience with COVID-19 confirms what we know to be true of other viral respiratory pandemics: they settle into the human population with smaller waves over time, eventually causing milder seasonal respiratory illness.