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COVID-19: When and How Will the Pandemic End?

Series | COVID-19 and response strategy #41


[This document is a one of a series of discussion notes addressing fundamental questions about the COVID-19 crisis and response strategies. These documents are based on the best scientific information available and may be updated as new information comes to light.]

Written by Adelaida Sarukhan, Jeffrey V Lazarus, Jose Muñoz and Clara Marín (ISGlobal), this document aims to review how to reach a COVID-19 endemic phase, as the most likely scenario for the coming years or decades is that the virus will become endemic and we will live with it as we do with the other four human coronaviruses which cause common colds. 

Each country or region will likely transition to an endemic phase at a different moment and in a different manner, but the pandemic is not endemic until all countries have reached that phase.

Access to- and combined use of - available pharmaceutical (vaccines, antiviral treatments, rapid tests) and non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g. facemasks, ventilation) will be key. Vaccines alone will not suffice to end the pandemic.

Each country will likely have its own “acceptable endemic level” but it is urgent that there is a coordinated global strategy based on common targets and criteria regarding transmission, hospitalizations and deaths.

COVID-19 may still cause epidemic peaks during winter and, together with seasonal influenza, may impact healthcare services and productivity.