Social distancing may be needed through 2022, Harvard researchers say

Social-distancing measures for COVID-19 may need to continue through 2022, according to new projections from Harvard researchers published in Science. 

Researchers from Boston-based Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health used mathematical modeling to predict various scenarios for the pandemic.

The researchers projected that the SARS-CoV-2 virus will return every winter, prompting more outbreaks after the initial pandemic wave ends. Prolonged social-distancing strategies could help limit the strain on healthcare systems and make quarantine and contact-tracing a feasible response strategy.

"Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or a treatment or vaccine becomes available," the researchers said.

They acknowledged that even intermittent social distancing will have profound economic, social and educational consequences. Even after the "apparent elimination" of COVID-19, viral surveillance should continue through as late as 2024 to prevent an outbreak resurgence, researchers said.

The researchers said their modeling should not be taken as an endorsement of certain response policies, but instead be used to identify helpful interventions and spur new ideas to achieve long-term control of the pandemic.

To view the full study, click here.

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