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COVID-19 Futures: A Framework for Exploring Medium and Long-Term Impacts

15 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2020

See all articles by Juliet Bedford

Juliet Bedford

Anthrologica

Erik Berglof

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Institute of Global Affairs

Caroline Buckee

Harvard University - Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics

Jeremy Farrar

Wellcome Trust

Bryan Grenfell

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & the Princeton School of Public & International Affairs, Princeton University

Edward C. Holmes

Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, School of Life and Environmental Sciences and School of Medical Sciences, University of Sydney

C. Jessica E. Metcalf

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & the Princeton School of Public & International Affairs, Princeton University

Devi Sridhar

University of Edinburgh

Beth Thompson

Wellcome Trust

More...

Abstract

Background: Considering the possible trajectories of the COVID-19 pandemic is important to inform both short- and long-term responses and to prepare for pandemics of the future. We describe a framework to explore four possible futures of the COVID-19 pandemic over the next five years, examining how each could play out globally.

Methods: We have defined four futures based on the biology of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and its human host, and the scientific responses to it. Rather than predictions, these futures represent plausible possibilities and are used as a framework to help explore what could happen. To investigate the impacts of these four futures in a global context we created five archetypal settings with different social, economic, and political characteristics. We overlaid the four futures across the five settings, taking into consideration how SARS-CoV-2 may spread, and behavioural, political and economic factors.

Findings: SARS-CoV-2 is not globally eradicated within five years in any of these futures, although community transmission could be eliminated within certain national boundaries. Some people and settings are disproportionately adversely affected due to existing and emerging vulnerabilities, but nowhere is unaffected, and all areas are susceptible to the arrival of new infections whilst there are ongoing outbreaks elsewhere. Countries face their own challenges and choices as the world learns to live with COVID-19, particularly in how vaccines, antivirals and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are deployed.

Interpretation: More broadly, we explore the profound and long-lasting ways in which the pandemic and response to it will shape the world’s health, economy, politics and societies. We identify critical lessons learned from these futures so that the profound disruption of COVID-19 can be used as an opportunity to learn, reform and act to create better global outcomes.

Funding: The collaborators in this project did not receive specific funding.

Declaration of Interests: J. Farrar is a member of the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. B. Grenfell is a member of the Royal Society’s Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) group. D. Sridhar is a member of the Scottish Government COVID-19 Advisory Group and the DELVE group. All other authors declare no competing interests.

Keywords: Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, vaccination, anti-virals

Suggested Citation

Bedford, Juliet and Berglof, Erik and Buckee, Caroline and Farrar, Jeremy and Grenfell, Bryan and Holmes, Edward C. and Metcalf, C. Jessica E. and Sridhar, Devi and Thompson, Beth, COVID-19 Futures: A Framework for Exploring Medium and Long-Term Impacts. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3678593 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3678593

Juliet Bedford

Anthrologica

United States

Erik Berglof

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Institute of Global Affairs

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Caroline Buckee

Harvard University - Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics ( email )

Boston, MA
United States

Jeremy Farrar

Wellcome Trust ( email )

Bryan Grenfell

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & the Princeton School of Public & International Affairs, Princeton University ( email )

Edward C. Holmes

Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, School of Life and Environmental Sciences and School of Medical Sciences, University of Sydney ( email )

C. Jessica E. Metcalf

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & the Princeton School of Public & International Affairs, Princeton University ( email )

Devi Sridhar

University of Edinburgh ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9JY
United Kingdom

Beth Thompson (Contact Author)

Wellcome Trust ( email )

Gibbs Building
215 Euston Road
London, NW1 2BE
United Kingdom

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