Will there be a pandemic in 2023?

As Covid infections are again on the rise in many countries, especially in China which saw more than 250 million cases in 20 days in December, fears of a new wave of Covid continue around the world, including India.

Although the BF.7 variant of the Omicron virus is of concern in China and India, the Omicron subtype XBB accounts for 18.3 percent of all Covid-19 cases in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This represents an 11.2 percent increase as the XBB variant continues to increase cases in Singapore.

Omicron subtypes BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 account for 70 percent of new cases in the United States.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the number of confirmed Covid cases in the US has surpassed 100 million since the pandemic broke out nearly three years ago, with a total of more than 1 million deaths.

Japan is facing the eighth wave of the epidemic and the country has recorded 206,943 new cases.

South Korea’s new Covid cases remained below 70,000 for a second day on Saturday, while deaths related to the new coronavirus hit a three-month high.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said he hopes Covid-19 will no longer be a global health emergency next year.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO Covid-19 Emergency Committee will discuss criteria for ending the Covid-19 emergency next month.

“We hope that at some point next year, we will be able to say that Covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency,” he said, although the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the culprit behind Covid-19, will not go away.

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Keerthi Sapnis, an infectious disease specialist at Fortis Hospital in Kalyan, Mumbai, told IANS that when an epidemic spreads, it means that the disease is present in a particular community or globally, and there is enough immunity in the population to contain the outbreak.

“Furthermore, infections can continue to affect vulnerable members of the community. This also means that even if an endemic disease does not experience major outbreaks, it will not be completely eradicated,” he said.

Health experts said it is difficult to predict whether Covid-19 will spread in 2023 because it is a respiratory virus that can mutate like other influenza viruses.

“If various mutations change the protein structure of the virus or change its ability to attach to cells, it can create new strains. However, if the current defenses of immunity to the virus are sufficient to prevent severe disease or reduce transmission, of course Covid can become endemic,” Sapnis said.

It is uncertain whether or when Covid-19 will spread, but it is unlikely that we will completely eliminate it.

Experts said we could see occasional outbreaks, especially during flu season or if new mutations emerge, as is happening now in China.

“The prevalence of the virus in India and the degree of immunity acquired through previous vaccination and community transmission will also affect its ability to localize. However, significant new outbreaks or spread of the virus are unlikely in the next 2-3 months,” Sapnis said.

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