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Corona anno 2021. The Virus, Mutants & Vaccines

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Offline Robert

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Corona anno 2021. The Virus, Mutants & Vaccines
« on: April 28, 2021, 05:15:07 PM »
Corona anno 2021. The Virus, Mutants & Vaccines

In the early 2020s, there was sporadic news coverage of a potentially deadly virus from China that could jump from human to human. It was not big news, but the number of infections did increase by one or two cases every day, but the number of fatalities was not far behind either. Not much later, those numbers were rapidly increasing every day. It began to dominate the daily news. In China, major metropolises were hermetically sealed off and a 1,000-bed emergency medical hospital was constructed in 10 days to stop the rapid rise of the virus. How deadly was the virus? No one could say for sure. Where did it come from? The virus began to emerge in other countries as well. At first a few cases, which made it seem like it could still be contained, but it soon became apparent that this virus could become pandemic. After a few months, hospitals worldwide were overflowing with corona patients and treatment was still a big exploration. Hospital staff also became infected en masse and shut down regular care. Now we are in periods of lockdowns and easing, until the numbers go the wrong way again and then we go back into lockdown. Simply to keep the pressure on care from rising too high.

Meanwhile, 145 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with the virus and 3 million have died. Every day there are about 900,000 new infections. This says nothing about the actual number of infections and victims, which will be much higher. The largest increase is currently seen in India and Brazil.

The virus was researched from the start and the entire genetic structure was soon mapped out. It was a coronavirus that had jumped from animals to humans (zoonosis) and could also jump from human to human. An important feature of coronaviruses is that with each copy, the protein mantle becomes slightly different, actually creating a new variant. The virus can also merge with other virus strains and thus take over properties (antigenic shift). Usually these new variants are not so different that the body no longer recognizes it, but if the number of infections increases, the chance of a new infectious variant becomes greater.
A new variant that is more contagious will spread more easily in a population. A variant that is less contagious will die out.
Incidentally, a variant that causes mild symptoms can also normally spread easily, allowing people to build up antibodies. But the lockdowns also prevent the spread of mild virus strains.

Using state-of-the-art technology, several manufacturers have hastily attempted to produce a vaccine that should be able to offer protection against the 'original' variant. But even if there is a vaccine, it still has to be tested. And that normally takes years. But urgency ensured that this testing period could be drastically shortened. But even if a vaccine is effective, the production of billions of vaccines is not just done in a week. It also literally takes at least a year. But in the meantime, many new variants have emerged in that year, for which a vaccine may not be available. (South African Variant, Brazilian Variant, or the latest triple mutated Indian or Bengal variant). The major problem is primarily the genetic makeup of the E484K mutation. This is because it makes the virus less susceptible to antibodies (and vaccines that stimulate them).
Even if a population is protected by a vaccine, a new variant can bypass the protection of the vaccine and infect all people again. You see this every year with the flu virus and it will be the same with coronaviruses. With the flu virus, people get a cocktail that is sometimes supposed to protect against 2 or 3 variants. With corona/covid it will be no different.

What does this mean? The entire world is now in lockdown to a greater or lesser degree. There are strict or less strict rules in place all over the world to prevent the spread of the virus. There are countries that already have high vaccination rates like Israel, but a new variant will be able to undo all that effort. And then those countries will also have to go back into lockdown and wait for the development of a new vaccine and wait to produce it and wait to administer the new vaccine to the population. So every year or every 2 or 3 years, a country will have to go into lockdown for a few months until a vaccine is available and over 60% of the population has been vaccinated, in order to be able to open up again fully. International (air) traffic automatically causes new variants to spread around the world, so the party starts all over again every year.

Only those countries that have access to rapid development of new vaccines against new variants and have high production capacity in doing so can greatly shorten the period of lockdowns. Countries that do not have that access are dependent on agreements with manufacturers or help from other countries.

In short, we are probably far from there!

So should the Covid virus mutate into a more dangerous variant against which no vaccine is yet available, what will happen?

First, it will have to be proven that this is an infectious variant of the Covid virus. At least 5 people will have to be infected with the new Covid variant. Then it will be examined how bad this Corona variant is in terms of infectivity and pathogenicity. If it appears that a new mutation of the Covid virus is spreading (aggressively), countries can take measures. Think of cancelling flights from certain countries. But because of the global scale of our international (air)traffic, it won't be long before a new variant of the covid virus is spread worldwide and emerges everywhere.

If vaccines do not provide a solution against a new covid variant, countries will likely decide to go back into lockdown until a new vaccine is developed, produced, distributed, and has been given to a large portion of the population. The time between discovery and actually opening up a society can be months to well over a year. Rich countries can come out of lockdown relatively quickly, but poor countries may have to wait for years.

In the meantime, new variants of the covid virus will emerge again, which will eventually spread worldwide. The only way to really do something about this is to massively increase the scale of vaccine production and thus also the raw materials (chemicals), accessories (vials, needles) and distribution channels (also to less developed countries). Also legislation to make the development of covid vaccines open source will have a positive effect. This should not serve a commercial purpose.
Governments will also need to invest in health care (especially ICU places, beds and equipment (ventilators) and ICU staff and their PPE). Maybe a conscription or volunteer program to train people to be employees of ICU departments. So that peaks can be handled. After all, the bottleneck of lockdowns and possible easing is now the pressure on ICU departments.

Testing on Covid is also very important. There should be testing capacity available for everyone, every day/week. Preferably tests that can also detect different variants of Covid virus. (Think of a company like Novacyt, who develops such test kits https://novacyt.com/ They have test kits that give a very accurate result within 10 to 20 minutes.)
In international (airline) travel, everyone who checks in should undergo such a test, to prevent the spread of variants.

Consideration should also be given to whether or not to continue providing assistance to certain sectors. With the development of mechanization, the steam engine, computer chips, the Internet etc, certain professions died out. But many new jobs were also created.
Now we are still holding our hands over certain sectors with aid packages, but how long are we going to keep this up? six months? a year? 2 years? 5 years? 10 years?
It is of course very unpleasant if you have a business or job in those sectors, but there will have to be a natural evolution in that area as well.

This will be a sledgehammer blow for some industries, but keeping a dead sector in the air for years with phantom jobs is not an option either. Sectors that may be affected are: tourism, airlines and builders, hospitality and suppliers, hotel industries, trade fairs and large-scale events. The office rental sector and new office construction will also be hit hard. And if distance shopping becomes the norm, shopping centers will also die out. Even car manufacturers will notice that more and more people will work from home and the need for daily transportation will disappear.

This, incidentally, also offers opportunities for new initiatives such as converting offices into homes. Large-scale compartmentalized events. Digital events. Drive-in cinemas etc.

And don't forget that the economy as a whole doesn't suffer that much from this. All the savings that people would normally spend on vacations and dinners are now going towards renovations, garden furniture, interiors, etc. The number of parcels being delivered has increased enormously and web stores are experiencing boom days. And the enablers of these sectors such as IT companies and payment providers are also seeing significant growth.
The sector for home workstations, computers, laptops, webcams, printers and online cloud services is also growing strongly.

It is even said by some that the rise in stock markets and crypto-currencies is also due to the lockdowns. Money is abbundant because people can't spend it and people are stepping into stocks and cryptocurrencies in droves.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2021, 05:23:58 PM by Robert »