Has COVID-19 been confined to the history books?

Ismail Hussain, Contributing Writer

The wait is over. President Joe Biden finally declared the pandemic to be over, but is
it really?

If you want to oversimplify the issue, then the deaths and cases are much lower than
at the pandemic’s peak. But for Biden to say unequivocally that the pandemic is over is not
the case. Biden is the president, not a COVID-19 expert. We should look at what the experts
say, but even among experts, there is debate. If we are to listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci, then
the answer is not entirely. He is warning people of the possibility of another COVID-19 strain
this winter, more dangerous than the Omicron variant and more resistant to vaccines.
But what does it mean for the pandemic to be over? There is no fixed measurement
for this, and it depends on an individual’s interpretation. For Michael Osterholm, director of
the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, there are
two ways of measuring if a pandemic is over. The first way is based on the physical effect on
humans, and the second is the psychological effect. If we were to base the issue on the
physical aspect, then Osterholm’s measurement is not the most promising. While cases and
deaths are at a low, COVID-19 is still one of the top causes of death. Attitudes treating
COVID-19 as the seasonal flu are not the right approach since, in the week ending Oct. 1,
there were five deaths from the influenza virus. The deaths from COVID-19 in the same
week? More than 900.

However, if one looks at the psychological aspect, Osterholm says that Biden might
be right, according to a joint poll by Ipsos and Axios. The poll shows that 44% of Americans
want to move towards reopening the country, which differs from earlier in the year when the
country was more divided. Mask mandate support is also down, with the current support
being 8% (compared to 21% in February). Also, most Americans (78%) believe the country

is in a better place now with COVID-19 compared to last year. This shows that most
Americans are moving on from the pandemic, regardless of any risks posed.
As such, the answer is more complicated than yes or no. But one thing is for certain
— there should not be any complacency and a certain level of caution is justified. With
another wave in Europe, this might signal bad news for the United States. The pandemic will
not truly be over until it is over worldwide. Vaccines are available in developed countries, but
in the Global South, the situation is different and displays the true issue of vaccine inequality.
Countries like South Africa have had to rely on pharmaceutical companies, like Moderna,
that are based in Europe and the U.S. for their vaccines.
The situation worsens when one sees that a hub in South Africa and while they
reverse-engineered the Moderna vaccine, they are under threat, since Moderna refused to
share the technology and filed various lawsuits “to protect the innovative mRNA technology
platform that we pioneered, invested billions of dollars in creating, and patented during the
the decade preceding the COVID-19 pandemic.” Why is saving lives second to making money or
to patents?

It is in the best interests of the West to help create the infrastructure so that a
pandemic being over is not dependent on an economically unequal world, but dependent on
everyone having equal access to vaccines and treatment.