The worldwide lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus will need to remain in place, at least partially, until a vaccine is created sometime next year, a new study has suggested.
As CNN reported, the medical study based on the first outbreak of COVID-19 in China and published in the medical journal The Lancet this week used medical research and mathematical modeling to predict that a second wave of infection could sweep across the globe if these measures are lifted too soon. The report noted that while officials around the Chinese city of Wuhan — where the outbreak was first reported — have started to end the stringent lockdown put in place in January, there is still high risk for the virus continuing to spread.
“While these control measures appear to have reduced the number of infections to very low levels, without herd immunity against Covid-19, cases could easily resurge as businesses, factory operations, and schools gradually resume and increase social mixing, particularly given the increasing risk of imported cases from overseas as Covid-19 continues to spread globally,” noted Professor Joseph T. Wu from the University of Hong Kong, one of the lead researchers on the study.
The report noted that a vaccine is not expected to be created and widely available until next year, suggesting that some form of lockdowns will be in place through the remainder of 2020. In the U.S., officials have not expressed certainty of when the lockdown measures could start to be lifted and exactly what that would look like, as the virus has yet to peak across the country and even in the hardest-hit places, like the greater New York City area.
Other medical experts have offered similar predictions, including the landmark report from the Imperial College of London that led both the U.S. and the U.K. to put lockdown measures in place. As CNN noted, the study concluded that only a strategy of strict suppression will be able to curb the worst of the virus, and this includes maintaining an “intensive intervention package” until a vaccine is created — which could take 18 months or more.
Across the globe, countries have put in place stringent measures to keep the virus from spreading, including mandatory quarantine of those infected, closure of all non-essential businesses, and recommendation for all people to remain in their homes for all but essential trips for things like food and medicine.