WILL THERE BE A SECOND PEAK?
We will be facing COVID-19 for many months to come. We are still far from achieving herd immunity, where enough people have become infected (and therefore, it is hoped, immune) to halt the disease’s spread. It is also likely that we won’t have a vaccine for at least another 12 months. As a result, we run a constant risk of a second peak in cases, especially as we ease lockdown restrictions. The key is to keep down the reproduction number R, which measures how many people a single infected person will pass the disease to. At the peak of the UK outbreak, R was between 2 and 3. It has since dropped below 1, and will need to stay there if the virus is to be brought under control. Two things will help achieve this: personal precautionary measures (keeping physical distance, handwashing, wearing face coverings on public transport, avoiding crowded spaces), and public health interventions (testing, tracing, and isolation). As long as these precautions are in place, we can prevent any new outbreaks from ripping through the population. The aim is to be able to ride a gentler ebb and flow of cases until we have a vaccine.
WILL THE VIRUS GET WORSE IN WINTER?
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As the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine reaches a climax, Gareth Williams explores four previous attempts to rid the world of lethal diseases, from Edward Jenner’s “delightful” war on smallpox to the rancorous battle to consign polio to the past
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