Adapting to COVID-19
It is now almost six months since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. As the epidemic was unfolding in February 2020, with little information about the new coronavirus, scientists from across disciplines offered projections of the epidemic and proposed policy measures that had one target in common: getting through the worst phase of the epidemic and controlling the situation.
Early contributions attempted to quantify and simulate optimal policy measures, and broadly proposed a two to three-month strict lockdown to be imposed some weeks into the epidemic. Some countries operated severe lockdowns starting at two weeks after the outbreak and lasting for three months. Locally, various restrictive measures were enforced on businesses and the general population which led to disruptions in the labour market as well as financial difficulties amongst workers and businesses. Moreover, the outbreak of COVID-19 produced mental health issues to various people who found it difficult to cope in life when exposed to daily news, mainly coming from the social media.
Six months on, uncertainty around COVID-19 persists. Global daily confirmed cases are steadily increasing. While strict lockdown measures were lifted in many countries, new infection spikes have appeared in others, as the world wakes up to the fact that this coronavirus is likely to stay for a long time. In Malta confirmed cases have increased, so much so, that frontliners namely doctors and nurses are being burnt out.
One great unknown about COVID-19 is whether individuals who recover from it can be reinfected. At the emergence of any new virus, it is impossible to know whether immunity is permanent or wanes, until enough time has passed for more studies to take place. If immunity to COVID-19 is temporary, the disease will become endemic.
Medical specialists are of the opinion that partial lockdown or social distancing measures may become the norm for some years to come.
Currently, the only policies at our disposal are non-medical interventions such as social distancing and restrictive measures. At the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, such policies proved to be extremely costly from social, economic, and health care perspectives.
However, going forward, we expect that the government, businesses and individuals are likely to adapt how they do things and operate to mitigate the costs of this pandemic. People may become more cautious in everyday dealings, businesses may come to depend less on third parties, while other organisations such as schools, transport operators and goods producers may find innovative ways to become more flexible and resilient in the ways they deliver services and products.
We hope that with creativity and resourcefulness, humanity will learn to live with the disease, should it turn out to be here for the long term.