Story at a glance
- The report says the virus won’t likely stop spreading until 60 to 70 percent of the world’s population is immune.
- Researchers say with the coronavirus’ longer incubation period, more asymptomatic spread and higher R0, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily than the flu.
- Researchers recommend the U.S. prepare for a worst-case scenario.
The coronavirus pandemic could continue into 2022 and won’t be under control until a majority of the world’s population becomes immune, a report released by experts Thursday says.
The report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota says based on the most recent flu pandemics, the highly transmissible coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will likely keep spreading for as long as two years, and will likely not stop spreading until 60 to 70 percent of the population is immune.
“The length of the pandemic will likely be 18 to 24 months, as herd immunity gradually develops in the human population,” the researchers wrote.
“Because of a longer incubation period, more asymptomatic spread, and a higher R0, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily than flu,” the report says.
A higher R0, which is the average number of new infections that result from a single infected person, means more people will need to get infected to become immune before the pandemic can end, according to the report.
Researchers recommended that the U.S. prepare for a worst-case scenario, including no vaccine availability or herd immunity.
“Risk communication messaging from government officials should incorporate the concept that this pandemic will not be over soon,” they say, “and that people need to be prepared for possible periodic resurgences of disease over the next 2 years.”
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The report comes as the United States and other countries around the world have started loosening social distancing restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus, and developers are racing to manufacture potential vaccines.
Public health officials have warned of a rebound of infections in the U.S. if restrictions are lifted too soon without a vaccine, which health experts say could take anywhere from 12 to 18 months.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this week a second wave of coronavirus is “inevitable,” as the virus is highly contagious and has spread across the world.
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