While the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine is a step forward, mass testing will remain pivotal to controlling the spread of the virus, according to Christian Stephenson, chief development officer at Medusa 19, the producer of a saliva-based lateral flow COVID test. The test provides results on the spot in 15 minutes.
He told Express.co.uk: “To roll out the vaccine across the UK will take many months, and there is still a lot we do not know about the disease or the vaccines, including how long it lasts.
“A robust testing system alongside the vaccine gives us the best way to control the disease in the long term. We will need to test whether individuals who have taken the vaccine have developed the antibodies, we will need to test how long they keep the antibodies for and whether they have been re-infected.
“Testing will also prove crucial as we look to reopen key industries. For example, as an island nation, we will need to test all passengers both before and after they arrive in the UK as we look to restart travel and tourism. As such, testing is here to stay for the significant future.”
Stephenson concluded: “There is no silver bullet with this virus and efficient, accurate testing in the community is the only solution for the next five years at least.”
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But to predict exactly when the pandemic will end at this stage is very difficult, as it depends on several factors.
Dr Jonas Nilsen, MD and co-founder of Practio thinks coronavirus restrictions will be lifted gradually from March.
He said: “Hopefully by summer things should start to feel normal again, but with certain restrictions such as the use of face masks and restrictions against mass gatherings still in place.”
Dr Nilsen added if enough people get the COVID-19 vaccine, things could be completely normalised by the end of 2021 – potentially even before that.
He said: “UK-wide administering of the COVID-19 vaccine poses its many logistical challenges and adopting a tech-based system could be key to ensuring efficiency in the mammoth task.
“Firstly, utilising an online booking process similar to that of booking a COVID-19 test enables inoculations to be booked at any time, anywhere, enabling the automatic handling of revaccination if people need more than one dose.”
Dr Charlie Easmon, a Harley Street doctor and public health advisor, agreed it’s difficult to predict when the pandemic may end, but that a vaccine is sure to help.
He advised: “No medical scientist or politician has a Crystal Ball but I will give my thoughts as to how COVID-19 is likely to play out assuming that it does.
With fears we could be stuck with COVID-19 forever, Professor Martin Michaelise University of Kent’s School of Biosciences said the situation will become much more manageable in the course of next year.
A number of countries have already shown us how a successful life with COVID-19 can look like, including Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, and Vietnam.
Professor Michaelise explained: “They all suppressed the COVID-19 spread to extremely low levels right from the beginning. This enabled these countries to control outbreaks locally by identifying infected individuals and isolating them and their contacts.
“As long as it is possible to identify outbreaks very early and stop the transmission locally, general restrictions are not required in the way that we currently have them. This means that once you have brought the COVID-19 numbers down and you have an effective strategy to keep them down, you can ease restrictions.
“Notably, the countries mentioned before have achieved this without vaccines or the testing capacities that we have now. Hence, I am convinced that we are able to achieve the same with vaccines and more mass testing if we want to and that we are on our way back to a kind of normal.”