Coronavirus study finds social distancing into 2022 may be necessary

A newly published study looks toward the future of a world facing the deadly novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. According to the research, it may be necessary for communities around the world to engage in 'prolonged or intermittent' social distancing practices into the year 2022 in order to prevent the healthcare system from being overrun by future virus outbreaks.

The study, which was published in Science on Tuesday, estimates how the novel coronavirus may impact the world over the coming months and years, including the potential for future outbreaks and the ways social distancing may help prevent this. The study warns that it is likely there will be future outbreaks of the virus during the winter season following the initial outbreaks currently taking place.

Social distancing is an effort to reduce and delay the number of infections in order to prevent the healthcare system from being overrun with cases. With this goal in mind, the researchers note that it may be necessary to maintain social distancing efforts into 2022 while herd immunity builds and a potential vaccine is developed.

According to the study, some additional efforts added to social distancing, including developing effective COVID-19 treatments and expanding critical care facilities, may help speed up the process of herd immunity and make intermittent social distancing more effective.

There are some key factors that are still absent, however, including adequate antibody testing to determine how immune recovered COVID-19 patients may be to the virus and how long this immunity lasts.

Though questions remain, there have been reports of some coronavirus patients who have been infected by the virus a second time. Beyond that, the study warns that it is possible the virus could resurge as far in the future as 2024 even if it is seemingly eliminated.