2020 has certainly been a year many of us want to forget, and people are pinning a lot of hope on 2021. Will it be the year COVID-19 actually ends and things go back to normal? We asked three experts for their opinions.
McGill University and Jewish General Hospital Infectious Diseases expert Dr. Matthew Oughton says to prepare for a rocky start.
“If you’re looking just at the numbers of new cases in Ontario and Quebec right now, it certainly does not bode well for what’s going to be happening in our hospitals and health care facilities across Canada early in the new year,” he said.
Oughton believes after a slow launch, the vaccination pace will pick up, and the situation in hospitals and long term care homes will vastly improve as a result.
“I think we can sort of take some courage from that and say, ‘OK, good, we’ve been doing this for 10 months, we’ve got it in us to do this another few months and then things should really start to settle down,'” Oughton said.
“I think it will become something that is endemic, just one of the other infectious disease threats that we face that doesn’t rise to the level of a public health emergency any longer,” Adalja told Global News.
If you’re hankering to go to a sporting event or another gathering place, Adalja thinks rapid testing before entering a venue might be in your future.
“You may see more of that type of that type of an intermediate step before we get back to what it was in 2019.” he said, adding that the NFL’s Buffalo Bills will be asking fans to get tested before attending a playoff football game this weekend.
Oughton thinks proof of immunization could be another possible requirement before going into a big crowd.
He believes the big festivals vital to Montreal’s economy will not look the way they did before.
“Hitting a crowd of like 50,000 people, that kind of thing is going to be very different than how it was in the pre pandemic age. I don’t think it’s going to go back very quickly,” Oughton said, adding festivals might need to diminish attendance to allow for social distancing.
Adalja said international travel will come back slowly.
“It’s going to be based upon the vaccination status of the country you’re coming from and the country you’re going, and your own specific vaccination status,” he said.
“We may see certain countries that are sort of in a free zone where they’ve got high vaccination status, where they’ve got an ability to verify whether or not people are vaccinated, sort of what happened with the yellow fever vaccine.”
He said as more people get vaccinated, and rapid testing technology improves, travel will begin to open up more and more.
All three experts we spoke to are extremely optimistic about the prospects of the vaccine, and are amazed at how fast it came about.
“It’s really a scientific accomplishment on par with the first landing of the man on the moon,” said Oughton.
“It’s incredible,” said Dr. Andres Finzi, a microbiologist at the University of Montreal and the Canada Research Chair in Retroviral Entry.
Finzi would not venture a prediction of how 2021 will play out, but said during the vaccination campaign peoples’ adherence to public health guidelines will be vital to ending the pandemic.
“When officials say diminish the number of contacts you have, they’re not saying that because they want to annoy you. They’re saying that because that makes it real difference,” Finzi said.
He said just because someone is not afraid of the virus, does not mean they do not have a responsibility to help break the chain of transmission.