COVID-19, the origins of which remain unknown, forced the whole world to grapple with drastic changes.
This flu season, we can expect ongoing transmission of the virus with intermittent waves.
Immunity provided by the previous infection and vaccination diminishes over time, while new variants with greater resistance to available vaccines can also cause small waves. In winter, these waves would coincide with influenza and the common cold.
It is also possible that another variant would emerge for which available vaccines have little effect. New variants can have severe outcomes especially for high-risk population, with increased burden on the healthcare system as well.
The future of COVID-19 will depend on the emergence of new variants and their resistance to the community immunity.
WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic on Mar. 11, 2020 which led to the governments across the globe enacting preventive measures to control the spread. These included border controls, restrictions on non-essential travel, testing, contact tracing and mandatory quarantine, to name a few.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, a number of variants of the novel coronavirus evolved from the original. Along with other factors such as effectiveness of vaccines over time in terms of immunity and with respect to different variants, inadequate global coordination, ineffective policies and inadequate resources, impeded global efforts to constrain the virus and flatten the curve.
Omicron is currently the dominant variant circulating globally. As per the Public Health Ontario’s risk assessment at the end of 2021, the omicron variant infected 4.5 times more individuals than the delta variant from Nov. 28 to Dec. 16, 2021.
According to WHO’s COVID-19 dashboard, as of Sept. 23, 2022, there have been 611,421,786 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 6,512,438 deaths globally and 4,216,141 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 44,740 deaths in Canada.
Public Health Agencies are monitoring the sub-variants of omicron to ascertain if these descendent may pose any extra threat to the global public health than the other circulating viruses.
PHAC’s Update on COVID-19 in Canada: Epidemiology and Modelling, April 1, 2022 asserted that ‘COVID-19 is expected to be with us for the foreseeable future and we should expect intermittent waves while also preparing for the worst-case scenario’.
Government of Canada recently announced removal of COVID-19 border restrictions starting from Oct. 1, 2022.
“The removal of border measures has been facilitated by a number of factors, including modelling that indicates that Canada has largely passed the peak of the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 fuelled wave, Canada’s high vaccination rates, lower hospitalization and death rates, as well as the availability and use of vaccine boosters (including new bivalent formulation), rapid tests, and treatments for COVID-19,” a news release stated.
This also indicates that the COVID-19 situation to be under control. But uncertainty remains in case a new variant emerges which evades the present immunity level of the population and easing of restrictions can aid the new variant to spread faster.
Keeping COVID-19 vaccines up to date and getting booster shots when eligible, keeping oneself apprised about the new evolving risks, practicing good hygiene, maintaining individual protective practices especially as holidays approach are all good preventative practices.