We are now “taking the first tentative steps towards the endgame” of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Trinity Professor Luke O’Neill.
With just days to the first anniversary of the arrival of the virus in Ireland, the Trinity Immunologist said the world could finally leave the pandemic behind in six to nine months.
“These are the first tentative steps now towards the end game, let’s put it that way,” he said.
“Some will say it is too early and let’s keep going for a while but scientists are now looking at the numbers closely and trying to project it out a bit.
“As I say, we are a year into it so we should be able to begin to see what the future might look like.
“It is a six to nine-month window is what they are now analysing closely – and of course, we know it is possible.
“We have now got seven vaccines which is still remarkable. Seven very efficacious vaccines being widely used around the world and the numbers are turning, no question.”
He said case numbers have been continuously dropping for most of the year.
“For example, there was a 17% drop in cases this week – this is a global health analysis – a 17% drop globally in cases numbers and a 10% drop in deaths.
“This is happening every week now. That was the fourth straight week in a row that the cases are dropping; it was the second week in a row that deaths have dropped. It is the lowest number of cases in 15 weeks globally.
“There was a 19% drop in Europe, a 22% drop in Africa and a 25% drop in the UK – they seem to be really turning a corner in terms of case numbers.”
He said there are “complex reasons” for the global fall in case numbers – with the vaccines having an effect in some areas and strict public health measures in place elsewhere.
“The third one is that herd immunity is beginning. We are seeing immunity building up naturally in certain populations.
“Interestingly, New Zealand is vulnerable now. They have almost no immunity because obviously they controlled the infection hugely. They need to be really careful now as we begin to reopen although they will have a mass vaccination campaign, I suppose, to control an inward infections.
“In India, on the other hand, there is a bit of immunity building up so we are seeing a gradual step in the right direction in general.”
He said there is a drop in case numbers in almost every major country in the world.
“The US has done badly as we know,” he said. “They now have reached 500,000 deaths. They had 670,000 in the 1918 pandemic so they are almost at the level of the worst pandemic in 100 years.
“It just shows you how serious it was over there but again they are turning. There is a drop in cases there as well. Every major country is showing this trend of a decrease in cases and that will translate inevitably into a decrease in deaths as well.”
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