Coronavirus : The Endgame?
Updated: May 18, 2020
It's been 170 days since the first case of the Coronavirus, infecting a total of 3,609,958 people worldwide. Who knew such a small virus originating in the city of Wuhan could have such repercussions, extending into a pandemic. We have varying theories as to how it began. One theory lays out a simple infection that was spread by the consumption of a bat at a local mart, to another theory that claims it to be a bioweapon that was deployed by the Chinese Government, which had supposedly escaped from the nearby premier virus research centre, around 30 km away from the local mart. However, what really happened, is a subject too ambiguous, causing international political tension.
As we have seen the conflict that has been going on between the US and China to trace the origins of the deadly virus, something that the Chinese must not have taken politely was Donald Trump calling it the “Chinese virus”. Along with this, the president also claims that he has evidence that COVID-19 was created in Wuhan. American lawyer Larry Klayman and his advocacy group along with Buzz Photos have filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government, Chinese army, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Director of Wuhan Institute of Virology Shi Zhengli and Chinese army's Major General Chen Wei. The complainant has hunted $20 trillion, which is a bigger amount than China's GDP, claiming coronavirus is the result of a bioweapon prepared by the Chinese authorities.They have accused China of subsidizing and encouraging death, accouterment of material support to terrorists, machination to stimulate injury and death of US citizens, and derelict. Meanwhile, China has been trying to put the cause of the spread upon the USA, where they state the spread started due to a US intern working in the lab who contracted it while working on producing an antidote for this virus. This has led to extreme political tension between these two superpowers out of the P5. However, in the midst of this tension between the 2 superpowers from the P5, one thing that isn't spoken about enough is how and when the SARS-CoV-2 will end (or COVID-19), and what we could expect from it?
In retrospect, this isn’t the first time we’re dealing with the coronavirus. A sister global epidemic to COVID-19 was the SARS. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome was caused by a coronavirus in 2003. With whopping similarities in its transmissibility and symptoms, the fact that it was contained quickly with a fatality rate 5 times more than the COVID-19 is something which gives us a glimmer of hope that this current pandemic too may soon end. The end of the SARS outbreak of 2003 was seen in July with the onset of summer in the northern hemisphere, complemented with strict health guidelines and hygienic practices followed on a global scale. The SARS reported a total of 8,437 cases and 813 deaths globally, while the COVID-19 has reported over 2.5 million cases with over 200,000 deaths worldwide, so, can we expect a similar end to this pandemic?
One of the main reasons for the perish of the SARS as mentioned above was the onset of summer. Many articles and reports say that this too can be expected of the novel coronavirus. Keeping in mind that the spread of this deadly virus has mainly occurred in the Northern Hemisphere, the onset of summer in May-June in this region could bring about the same fate. In ordinary conditions when the virus is suspended in air, its half life is 1 hour. Although, when sunlight is thrown into the equation, it is reduced to just 1 and a half minutes! Thus being a reason why it is expected that the seasonal change will eradicate the virus. However, looking at COVID-19’s relatively high transmissibility rate to the SARS, we are led to an alternative ending, the inevitability of acquiring this virus.
This brings us to the next two solutions, first being Herd Immunity and the second being concentrated confinement.
Herd immunity - This refers to the large scale development of immunity worldwide such that global immunity is obtained making the virus ineffective. The concept of herd immunity is typically described in the context of a vaccine. When enough people are vaccinated, a pathogen cannot spread easily through the population. However, in the case where a vaccine does not exist, a case we are in now, herd immunity refers to acquiring the virus, recovering from it, and becoming immune in a more natural manner. Once enough immunity has been built in the population, each person will infect fewer than one other person, leading to the end of the outbreak. This solution results in a scenario where only those developing or with developed immunities will survive the global downfall.
Concentrated confinement - This refers to national governments playing a game such as whack-a-mole where it stamps out outbreaks until a vaccine can be found and put into practice. For example, enforcing a lockdown on hotspots of the outbreak till it vanishes! Currently, this is being implemented by the Government of India in the green and orange zones, where we have seen a relaxation in lockdown after the intensive 40 day confinement, where the police was on patrol duty to make sure no one stepped outside. However, 170 districts across the 29 states are in the red zone where no relaxations are being practiced,continuing intense lockdown. Although ,this option is the most complicated and could take the longest to carry out successfully as it would require intergovernmental coordination and even if a single individual still carries the virus it will initiate a second wave of the outbreak.
Another possibility to terminate the existence of the SARS-CoV-2 is via the use of far-UVC. This is a much safer variation to the fatal UVC emitted from the sun's rays. Far-UVC has a shorter wavelength than regular UVC, and so far, experiments with human skin cells in the lab have shown that it doesn’t damage their DNA. Far-UVC efficiently inactivates airborne aerosolized viruses, with a very low dose of 2 mJ/cm2 of 222-nm light inactivating >95% of aerosolized H1N1 influenza virus. Thus, we can expect some, if not a lot, of similar impacts of far-UVC on COVID-19.
The above picture shows the H1NI influenza virus highlighted in green, as it slowly becomes inactivated, and the blue indicates the MDCK epithelial cells.
The novel coronavirus has led to a lot of repercussions, like economic recession and global political tension, which have impacted our lifestyle for the present and the nearing future. Over the course of this article, we came across alternative endings to this global pandemic. Some endings are more positive than the others, but nothing is known for sure. However, will any of these measures be useful? Can these be implemented by national governments? Can we expect the discovery of a vaccine in the coming 12-18 months? What if all of the scenarios mentioned above prove ineffective and the pandemic persists, engulfing the entire population? Or, will this just be another overlooked SARS from 2003? Or will this prove worse than the Spanish flu? Could this pandemic have an ending alternative to the ones mentioned above? Really makes you think, doesn't it?
Authors : Gourav Mittal, Vidhan Sethi