Another concern is that even when new strategies are in place, the infection could still kill.
Megan Scudellari, writing in the journal Nature, quoted experts as saying “regular extensive circulation of the virus” could end up with it becoming endemic — a disease regularly found among particular people in a certain area — somewhat like malaria, a preventable and treatable disease that still kills more than 400,000 people a year.
On a more positive note, the younger population in Africa could stand the continent in good stead. London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine researcher Rosalind Eggo said: “Regions with older populations could see disproportionally more cases in later stages of the epidemic.”
Eggo’s data from six countries suggests that “susceptibility to infection in children and people under 20 years old is approximately half that of older adults”.
Regardless of how the disease plays out in medical terms, there are calls for new policies that respond to the changes it has wrought on the social landscape.
Stellenbosch University law professor Thuli Madonsela said “in advising government, it is imperative to include a social science lens in the process of conceptualising and drafting Covid-19 regulations”.
Writing in the South African Journal of Science, the former public protector said: “Society is a system and, as in all systems, things are interconnected. By government’s own admissions, Covid-19 is not only a public health threat, but also a threat to society and the economy.”
Perhaps 2021 will have to be a year of patience. Any study of the immune system “requires long-term investigation of large cohorts of individuals”, said Silal.