What can we expect in 2021: the perspective of COVID-19 pandemics. Op-Ed by Ala Tocarciuc

"It's going to be hard. But it will certainly teach us things about ourselves, our family, the people and societies around us that we didn't know existed until now. Try to take it as a good thing..."

We are very close to the end of the year and globally we are far from seeing the end of the pandemic that distorted 2020.

Every day we see hundreds of thousands of new cases of COVID-19 infections, with the WHO reporting record day-to-day growth, while people find it difficult to comply with strict security measures again.

A virus, made up of a boring group of RNA, in a few months, has already killed hundreds of thousands of people, landed the global economy and erased years of progress on poverty, continuing to go unhindered all over the globe.

We're all waiting for this nightmare to stop, but will it ever? How long, until we have to hold the masks and stay away from Grandma?

No one knows for sure. Given that countries are knee-deep in the second wave, everyone is waiting for vaccines to put an end to this.

But they won't succeed. Not, at least, for a long time. For if we had a vaccine tested and proven in the coming months, there would still be many open questions. Who's going to have the first batch? How will it be distributed? Who will lead the distribution and allocation? How are we going to get to the herd's immunity on a global scale? The questions may continue, but the answers are far away.

For many of us in 2020 the public rhetoric surrounding the pandemic was combative. Politicians and health officials have spoken of "hitting" the new coronavirus and "crushing" the towering peaks of epidemic curves.

Although vaccines are supposed to appear soon, reaching every corner of the world with them will remain an aspiration for many people. So, the change on a more conciliatory tone is in order.

What to expect in 2021?

In 2021, humanity will continue to adapt to life with the virus - in ways that make coexistence less imposing and less combative. The basics will remain the same. Masks and avid hand washing will still be needed. People will give others a wider distance in public spaces without thinking about it. But as the pandemic enters its second year, be prepared for change in three areas: testing, quarantine rules and guidelines for social distance.

Herd immunity will be achieved in two ways. The first way will be the natural way of immunization. Those who won't accept the vaccine, they're going to go through the disease exactly as they are now. Globally, we're supposed to have about 50 percent of the population who refuse the vaccine for various reasons. The second group of people will accept the vaccine and complete the immunized group. The number of these people will depend on the amount of vaccine available for Moldova.

The WHO recently forecast a third pandemic wave for the European region for January 2021. Countries are urged to prepare health systems for this wave. Among the main recommendations remain the early detection of those infected, their testing, isolation, triage and appropriate treatment.

Bertalan Mesko, the Director of the Institute of Futuristic Medicine outlined three scenarios for the evolution of the pandemic in 2021.

# 1: A fairy tale too good to be true

Under this scenario, we will have a vaccine by the end of 2020. This highly optimistic version calculates with hundreds of millions of doses available, vaccinating the most important groups (health workers / over 65 years / people with other medical conditions) over a period of several months - and we will have the second part of 2021 for ourselves.

What to expect:

  • Extremely rapid and safe development and delivery of the vaccine.
  • Preparing for a carefree 2021 and preparing flights for the summer holidays;
  • We'll start forgetting the masks until the summer of'21;
  • The Olympics will be held without worry in Japan.


# 2: Cautious optimism

Taking into account with moderate optimism, more vaccines will go through the final phase in the first two months of 2021. Within a few months, mass production begins and results in hundreds of millions of doses available for distribution. Then, led by the WHO, we will start vaccinating those who need it first.

The first round of global vaccination will last several months. If the vaccine needs a repeat, such as the flu vaccine, the next round of vaccination may begin until it is finished. Everyone believes that a successful vaccination exercise has ended the pandemic, but it will not succeed. Even with this cautiously optimistic scenario, I expect 2021 to be quite similar to 2020: masks, social distance, hand washing and limited travel. This means that our daily lives and thinking will be intertwined with the epidemic as a whole in 2021.

What to expect:

  • Global travel and tourism will not return to normal in 2021;
  • Many industries will continue to suffer;
  • Those suffering from chronic diseases and cancer will continue to be disadvantaged in hospitals because they will not receive adequate care due to COVID-19;
  • Telemedicine will be the norm, as it will be difficult to personally see a doctor
  • Laboratory tests will come to the home;
  • Prepare for more e-sports and relatively strict limits on live sports and cultural events.


# 3 Pessimistic version

I will also give a bleak approach for 2021, simply because this cannot be completely ruled out. Under this model, there will be reliable vaccines by mid-2021. It will take many months to vaccinate those in need; vaccination of the wider population is still impossible due to distribution and delivery problems.

What to expect:

  1. Expect more virus waves throughout 2021;
  2. Wearing masks will remain mandatory across the globe for years to come;
  3. Sometime around 2022-23, we will reach the level of the New Normal;
  4. Live cultural and sporting events have been off for years: get ready for more online MET streams and another Disneyland NBA finale.


We must work hard to avoid this!

Every day we follow the rules, we move towards safety and reason, which are described in the second scenario. Given the current situation and global developments, this is a forecast that I could live with. But we, as individuals, are all necessary for this to happen.

Don't share fake news and don't accept half-truths that seem too comfortable: probably because they're really untrue. Listen to professionals and scientists, whose words may not be so compelling, but who make decisions based on their knowledge and experience. And don't let the media (or anyone) trick you into the farce.

It's going to be hard. But it will certainly teach us things about ourselves, our family, the people and societies around us that we didn't know existed until now. Try to take it as a good thing...

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