Although the ideal is to have a world without COVID, that is unlikely to happen. Now that vaccines are available, many countries are deciding on the best strategy going forward. For many, this has led to confusion.
Day of freedom or fear in England?
Many COVID restrictions, such as stopping limits on social gatherings, have just been lifted in England. Some people call this “Freedom Day.” For many others, this is less about freedom and more about fear, because increasing numbers of people are becoming infected with the Delta variant, and almost 30 million people are not yet fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, in the United States, some counties have again required mask-wearing to deal with the Delta variant. None of these decisions are easy, as governments try to balance health risks against the economic and social impacts of these public health measures.
What is elimination of COVID?
During the pandemic, many have used the word “elimination.” This is not the same as “eradication,” which normally means permanent reduction to zero cases of COVID. In reality, elimination is not quite total and permanent eradication of infection. A useful definition of elimination is, “to stop community spread as quickly as possible – which means zero tolerance towards new cases, rather than a goal of no new cases.” Practically, this means reducing the number of people passing on infection to others. Currently, there is not a definition for the elimination of COVID that we can agree on internationally.
Zero COVID is not possible
Many countries in Asia adopted a successful elimination strategy with very few deaths. However, nowhere has had “zero covid” for a long time period. In the U.S., COVID is likely to become a recurring seasonal infection. Right now, the best approach appears to be combining vaccination with other measures including widespread testing, isolation of cases, contact tracing, and social measures like wearing masks.