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“Social Distancing” & “Lockdown” May Be Extended Till 2022 - Researchers

People around the world might need to practice some level of social distancing intermittently through 2022 to stop Covid-19 from surging
Lifting social-distancing measures all at once could risk simply delaying the epidemic’s peak and potentially making it more severe.

With millions of people out of work and staying home, the pressure is growing to loosen restrictions in the U.S. and elsewhere. Doing so, experts have said, will depend on having in place measures to control the disease, such as widespread testing.

The Harvard researchers used computer models to simulate how the pandemic might play out. One possibility is that strict social distancing followed by intensive public-health detective work could chase down and eradicate the virus.

That’s what happened with SARS-CoV-1, which caused a 2003 outbreak. But with confirmed cases of the new pathogen approaching 2 million globally, that outcome is seen as increasingly unlikely, the researchers wrote.

“The social distancing was so effective that virtually no population immunity was built,” the researchers said of that scenario.

If the virus is more transmissible in colder months, delaying the peak into the autumn could exacerbate the strain on health-care systems, they wrote.

To avoid such outcomes, on-and-off social distancing measures might be needed until 2022, unless hospital capacity is increased, or effective vaccines or treatments are developed.

The authors don’t endorse a particular path forward but said they sought “to identify likely trajectories of the epidemic under alternative approaches.”

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