9th April 2020 – (U.S.) Bill Gates told Judy Woodruff on PBS Newshour on Tuesday that Americans will not be completely safe from COVID-19 infection until September 2021. He mentioned that the vaccine will take more than a year before it can be developed and commercialised.
He said that “The vaccine is critical, because, until you have that, things aren’t really going to be normal, they can open up to some degree, but the risk of a rebound will be there until we have very broad vaccination.”
The current social distancing is helping to lower the number of COVID-19 cases but the goal, Gates explained, is to get that number down to a point where “contact tracing” (a process in which those within close contact with an infected person are closely monitored) can be done, in order to maintain necessary quarantines.
Bill Gates suggested the U.S. to remodel after China by allowing people to get back to work but they must wear masks and have their body temperature taken. He thinks that larger public gatherings “may not resume until broad vaccination has taken place.”
Before Bill Gates made his statement, we have already published an opinion piece earlier on 25th March to predict that the COVID-19 pandemic will become a vicious cycle of high and low seasons until the antidote or vaccine is launched (Click HERE). We estimated it will take more than 15 months before the pandemic can be brought under control.
It is impossible for countries around the world to shut their borders for the next 15 months as many governments will become lax the moment the curve of total infections and deaths in their countries is flattened. Lockdown measures can only delay the spread of the virus and they will not stop the virus from spreading once humans start to gather. Wearing a mask and taking body temperature check may protect us to a certain degree but the presence of asymptotical patients will continue to spread the virus once lockdown measures become loose.
Most people can practise social distancing with restraint for a fixed period of time but if their freedom and livelihood are further jeopardised, they may ignore the advice and go back to the community again to work by maintaining close proximity at workplaces and social events but with smaller groups. The daily statistics of total number of infection published daily by every country only offers us an insight into the known cases reported worldwide. Many countries in Europe such as Italy, France and Spain have experienced a slowdown in the total number of new cases in the last few days. The reduction in numbers inevitable because lockdown regulations are currently in place. The moment when Italian government implements a more relaxed direction, people will go out again and the second wave will strike. Cases in U.K. continue to rise despite a ban on public gatherings, what will happen if the restriction is removed? A reduction in numbers simply does not mean that the pandemic is over, it merely signals that the lockdown measures have reduced the social contact between people and we are entering the low season of infection before the second wave is set off again.
The lockdown in Wuhan was lifted yesterday and there were over 65,000 people who left the city via trains and planes alone. Many local tourist spots in China were overcrowded with people after the lockdown was removed in several provinces. As of Saturday (April 4th), 97.2% of the 2,853 large-scale industrial enterprises in Wuhan had resumed production. A similar situation will happen in Europe as soon as the respective governments remove their full or partial lockdown measures a few weeks or months down the road. It will be a moment of awakening for them as their freedom has been restricted for so long. Hence, the second wave will return and cases will continue to go up and down in loops until the vaccine is found.
The worst is yet to come as continents like Africa which has already accumulated over 10,000 cases do not have the proper medical system to cope with the tsunami-like outbreak. If developed countries like U.S. and Germany are struggling to cope with the daily increase of cases, the impact on third world countries and developing nations will be far more astronomical. It seems like the world may need to remain in partial or full lockdown until the vaccine is found. Imported cases will trigger second and third waves of infection if countries start to become complacent with their borders.