Barring a vaccine, epidemiologists believe social distancing could be necessary until 2022 to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published the study Tuesday, according to Forbes.com. “Absent other interventions, a key metric for the success of social distancing is whether critical care capacities are exceeded,” the researchers wrote in the report. “To avoid this, prolonged or intermittent social distancing may be necessary into 2022.”
Researchers added it’s paramount to figure out if COVID-19 can be wiped out after this initial pandemic like the SARS outbreak. If it can’t, it’s likely the virus will re-emerge every winter like other, more common coronavirus strains.
The study also acknowledges the guidelines are likely to have “profoundly negative economic, social, and educational consequences.”
The authors say the point of the study is not to endorse their methods of beating COVID-19, but rather to spur innovative ideas and to expand the list of options to bring the pandemic under long-term control.,
The study did have some good news, saying once the number of positive cases has been reduced and testing ramps up, social distancing guidelines could be relaxed.
“New therapeutics, vaccines, or other interventions such as aggressive contact tracing and quarantine—impractical now in many places but more practical once case numbers have been reduced and testing scaled up—could alleviate the need for stringent social distancing to maintain control of the epidemic,” the study said.
The COVID-19 outbreak has effectively shut down the world. More than 150 countries have implemented quarantine restrictions. According to Johns Hopkins University, 2 million people have contracted COVID-19 worldwide, with 127,590 dying.