A pandemic has two typical endings. One, a medical ending where the curve flattens, and rates of incidence and death plummet.
Two, the social ending, where the fear factor about the outbreak wanes and the people learn to live with a disease, opting out of panic mode. But this does not signify a medical ending by any means. For the people, the ending they look for is social; for the health professionals, it is both.
But beyond the when and how of it, what really signifies the end of a pandemic. Who gets to decide the end, and for whom does it end?
How does that happen?
Stephen Morse, an epidemiologist at Colum- bia University, comments thus on the end of an epidemic, "You can't sign a treaty with a virus, so we have to settle for a kind of cease-fire”.
Taking a look at the Spanish Flu that appeared in 1918, the world had believed that the Pandemic had been stopped in its tracks by the spring of 1919. Early 1920 saw the same virus strike again. By the middle of 1920, it subsided enough to assume the Pandemic was over in many places, even though there was no dramatic or memorable declaration that the end had come. Those infected either died or developed an immunity. Even after that virus died out, it would be years before scientists better understood what happened, and some mystery still remains.
Likewise, it's impossible to say with any degree of certainty just how long the COVID-19 Pandemic will last.
Our lead story for this issue unravels the pos- sible ending of the pandemic. Additionally, we also track the progress of the COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics. The Conversation section features an in-depth interview with David Quammen on how to prevent the next pandemic. David Quammen had predicted the Covid19 pandemic almost a decade ago and published the forecast in 2012.
The next conversation we feature is with Dr Shi Zhengli, a virologist. She is often called China's "bat woman" by her colleagues because of her virus-hunting expeditions in bat caves over the past 16 years. Shi heads a group that studies coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Dr Shi Zhengli and her lab in Wuhan have become the centre of a conspiracy theory related to the origin of the coronavirus.
Before I sign off, let me leave you with the statement by the same man, David Quammen, who predicted the Pandemic: ‘Science warned this would happen. Politics didn't care.’
Dr Harish Pillai
Editor & Publisher