COVID-19 has killed more than 1 million people in the U.S. But as the number of COVID related hospitalizations and infection rates continue to decline, more governments have dropped the obligation for passengers in public transport to wear masks. users of metros, buses, trains, planes, and taxis are no longer forced to cover up. The lifts on mandates may have also created a false sense of security.
“Many people have been saying that the virus will mutate until it’s milder and milder. I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” said Dr. Eric Ding is the chief of the COVID Task Force at the New England Complex Systems Institute.
All viruses mutate constantly. When a virus accumulates a substantial number of mutations, it’s considered a different lineage, and is labelled a variant once it’s confirmed the virus has changed into a more severe disease. That is what we are now seeing with COVID.
“It’s one of those lessons that we need to learn that the more we allow the virus to spread globally around the world, the more chances they’ll have to practice on our bodies and develop a variant that will get lucky and eventually evade or become more infectious,” Ding said.
Globally, one of the biggest challenges to curbing the spread of COVID is making sure there’s equal access to vaccines, said Dr. Javier Guzman, the director of Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development.
“The problem now, as we speak, is those low-income countries do not have more than 10% of their populations fully vaccinated. And that is a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots,” Guzman said.
Living with long COVID
Countries across Europe have underestimated the potential impact of long COVID. The long-term effects of infection are not clear yet, with no global database documenting long COVID cases, but one thing is clear — millions of people across the continent are likely to be suffering from it.