When will the coronavirus pandemic come to an ‘end’? February 2021

When will the coronavirus pandemic come to an end? The question is on everyone’s mind, and while astrologers and politicians have answers, few scientists want to be drawn into hazarding a prediction.

According to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan’s recent remarks, the spread of coronavirus has already been contained in India because “half the total cases are from three states only and another 30 percent from seven others.” But India has crossed two million Covid-19 positive cases and the graph continues to rise.

The endings

As Gina Kolata wrote in The New York Times earlier this year, medical historians recognise two types of endings. The medical ending, when the disease stops spreading; and the social ending, when people overcome their anxieties and move on. It would be appropriate to add a third type of ending: the political, when the government decides that as far as it is concerned, the pandemic is over. Any of these three endings could occur first, as political leaders and society can decide to move on regardless of whether the cases have peaked. If we look at the world today, it would not be overly cynical to conclude that politicians would rather move on, and that societies are distracted to such dysfunctional levels by social media-driven outrage cycles that they often ignore the extant pandemic. Maybe India is already at this point.

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