IT’S been almost two years since Covid-19 was first detected. As the pandemic wreaked havoc worldwide, countries closed up, causing a halt to international travel and tourism, and imposed nationwide lockdowns.
Since then, governments across the world have depended on public health data in formulating policies to protect their populations.
In that time, humans made great strides in the realm of data analysis, vaccine development and bridging the gap between governments and the people.
In that time, too, children have had vital growth years ripped away from them. According to Unicef, schools for more than 168 million children globally have been shut for more than a year, leading to profound effects on their academic and social development. This pandemic will undoubtedly impact an entire generation for decades.
As a father of two, I worry about the future for my children. Will they ever lead a normal childhood, let alone a normal life? Will they ever have normal friendships and develop close ties with their extended family? Will team sports ever be risk-free and will they be able to see the world as we have been able to all these years? Questions like these frequently keep me awake at night.
With the rationale that classifying the pandemic as endemic would be a more pragmatic solution than achieving herd immunity, we must come to terms with living with Covid-19. Countries like Singapore and the United Kingdom have shown that despite high vaccination rates, breakthrough infections will still occur.
Priorities must be shifted from managing case numbers to dealing with severe illnesses and deaths. Booster vaccinations are key to ensuring success.
Living with the virus means that governments must have increased hospital and ICU capacity. This is to manage the inevitable flare-ups in infections as well as a precautionary measure if a new, more infectious and transmissible variant emerges. Guidelines must be enforced at all levels of society to ensure that a truly new normal way of living is adopted.
Harm reduction is a concept that emphasises our new priorities. We must not close up. Our children are depending on us not to. Therefore, risk must be managed as it becomes increasingly apparent that the coronavirus will not completely disappear. We must move forward, using scientific data to ensure the best balance between living the life we are used to and living the life we are forced to.
Yes, the risks are incredibly frightening, especially with cases of long Covid coming to light. Its association with long-term cognitive dysfunction and acceleration of Alzheimer’s symptoms simply cannot be ignored.
However, the risk of losing a larger part of our children’s vital development through educational and social interaction should be weighed as well.
I firmly believe that a lifestyle that has some semblance of normalcy can be achieved while adhering to social must-dos such as vaccination and masking, coupled with responsible ventilation of public premises, which could be a requirement enforced by public pressure if not by policymakers. This will significantly reduce the risks associated with being outside the safety and comfort of our homes.
We must be pragmatic. We may not be at the end of the tunnel, but we have reached the part where the lights are on. Forge ahead, everyone.