DiscoverDiscoveryThe Evidence: How pandemics end
The Evidence: How pandemics end

The Evidence: How pandemics end

Update: 2022-10-012
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Six and a half million dead. More than a hundred times that infected. The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe. But in the final months of the third year of this health crisis, some now claim it’s all over.

Scientists with key roles in the global response join Claudia Hammond to consider the evidence behind the declarations that the pandemic has finished and they set out how, officially, this global health crisis will be brought to an end.

They reject claims that the pandemic is over, but say the emergency phase of this global health crisis is coming to a close.

But only if countries remain vigilant and maintain pandemic preparedness.

If vaccines reach arms, if treatments are shared equally and if nations re-introduce public health measures like mask wearing and social distancing when the inevitable new waves (and potential new variants) emerge, the appalling loss of life we saw at the beginning of the pandemic, they tell Claudia, won’t be repeated.

There are stark warnings too that the dramatic global drop in the sequencing of virus samples (which enables us to see how the virus is evolving) is posing a serious risk.

We can’t react to a new threat, Claudia’s panel say, if you can’t see it. Sequencing, as well as testing, has fallen by 90% since January this year, from 100,000 weekly sequences ten months ago to less than 10,000 now. This severely limits the ability to track the known variants (currently 200 sub-lineages of the Omicron variant).

Produced in collaboration with Wellcome and recorded in front of a live audience in Wellcome’s Reading Room in London, Claudia’s expert panel includes Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organisation’s Technical Lead for Covid-19, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, co-chair of the south African Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 and a member of the Africa Task Force which oversees the African continent’s response to the virus and Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar, the Director of Wellcome and a former adviser to the UK government on its Covid response.

Presenter: Claudia Hammond
Produced by: Fiona Hill and Maria Simons
Studio Engineers: Giles Aspen and Emma Harth
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The Evidence: How pandemics end

The Evidence: How pandemics end

BBC World Service