ISSN 2330-717X

ANBOUND Maintains Judgement On Pandemic Starting To End In 2022 – Analysis

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As the world enters 2022, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to be effectively controlled. In China itself, there has been a minor outbreak in Xi’an recently, where the newly confirmed cases in the last 30 days have exceeded 1,600. According to China’s standards, this is relatively serious. Internationally, the Omicron mutant variant’s spread has exacerbated the rebound of the pandemic. On January 2, 278,000 new cases were reported in the United States, 135,000 in the United Kingdom, 61,000 in Italy, and 58,000 in France.

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The new cases have once again demonstrated the novel coronavirus’s extremely strong ability to transmit, and many are questioning whether there will ever be an end to the pandemic.

In his preliminary judgement in October 2021, ANBOUND’s founder Chan Kung stated that the earliest for global economic order to emerge from the pandemic would be in the autumn of 2022. If there is a new wave of outbreaks in the spring of 2022, and the response policies of various countries remain disorderly, it is likely that we will not see a gradual return to a normal economic order until 2023. Although Chan Kung’s judgment was made before the appearance of the Omicron variant, we maintain this preliminary judgment. Some may wonder why we made such a decision, and what impact a new variant would have.

A series of recent studies have shown that the Omicron variant can reduce the effectiveness of existing vaccines. For example, on December 12, 2021, the results of a joint study released by the LKS Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong and the Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong have revealed that the Omicron variant can significantly reduce the virus killing ability of the BioNTech vaccine (BNT162b2) by 32 times or more.

On December 8, Pfizer and BioNTech released a preliminary laboratory study that also showed only two doses of mRNA vaccine were significantly less effective for the Omicron variant. On December 18, the Shanghai Ruijin Hospital team disclosed that a third booster dose of Sinopharm BBIBP-CorV led to a significant rebound in neutralizing immune response against COVID-19. The results suggest that after the third dose of Sinopharm vaccine, the neutralizing titers (pVNT50) for Omicron is only 14.7, which is about 20 times lower than the strain used as the vaccine. On December 26, the Key Laboratory of Infection and Immunity of the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced the data after the third dose of the booster of the Sinovac vaccine, showing the neutralizing titer against Omicron also dropped significantly by about 16.5 times. Research by the Sheba Medical Center in Israel showed that people who received the second dose of vaccine 5 or 6 months ago would not have any resistance against Omicron, but the antibodies of people who received the booster increased by about 100 times. However, compared with the Delta variant, the booster is still less effective in resisting Omicron and is only about 1/4 of its effectiveness.

It is worth noting that a study published by the University of Hong Kong pointed out that although the new variant is fast contagious and the original vaccines have little effect, it does not cause significant symptoms. In Xi’an, as of January 1, 2022, among the 1,444 confirmed cases, there are 2 critical cases and 11 severe cases. The total proportion of the two is 0.9%. Most of these severe and critical cases are elderly people and may be related to underlying diseases. In a work published in Eurosurveillance on December 16, researchers analyzed the epidemiological characteristics of 785 cases of persons infected with the Omicron variant in Denmark and compared them with those infected with the Delta variant. 73% of those infected by the Omicron variant were symptomatic, 27% asymptomatic, 1.2% hospitalized (1.5% for the Delta variant), 0.13% admitted to the ICU (0.11% for the Delta variant), and there are no death cases (0.07% for the Delta variant).

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Based on these circumstances, the novel coronavirus is still mutating but the virus is also constantly weakening. For the long-term response against the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccine research and development will be similar to the current influenza virus vaccine, and new vaccines need to be continuously developed to adapt to the evolution of new strains. There is no problem with this with the current level of biomedicine. The previous COVID-19 vaccine research and development have proven this to be true.

As such, we believe that ANBOUND’s prediction of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall of 2022 is credible. If China’s public policy is based on this prediction of ANBOUND, a lot of resources can be saved and the economy can return to a normal rhythm.

On January 2, 2022, Chan Kung further explained that there should be a better understanding of regular patterns in the judgement of the pandemic, including the spread of viruses and their long-term condition, especially when it comes to the weakening of the virus. There is also the emergence of herd immunity and various changes in the understanding of viruses, including the so-called “living with COVID-19” put forward by some. This indicates that there will be a relaxation of the over-alert of the power centers and policy departments of governments in various countries with regards to the pandemic. At the same time, the introduction of therapeutic treatments will also cause people to lower their vigilance. All of this means there is a risk of intensification of the spread of the virus, but this will actually reversely stimulate and lead to the rapid end of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reason for this is the people with immunity would probably be the majority, and in turn, it will create the condition to end the spread of the pandemic.

Chan Kung emphasized that there should be a clear definition of the “end of the pandemic”. This is not the disappearance of the novel coronavirus. In fact, the virus will persist and mutate, and those who have been infected may become infected again. The “end of the pandemic” refers to people becoming accustomed to the virus’s spread. The people will no longer panic, just like how they perceive the ordinary flu. The internet’s amplification effect on virus fear will essentially disappear. The spread of the coronavirus will still be cyclical, similar to the flu while the policy processing framework of handling it will also be how the influenza is handled. The role of disease control institutions in various countries will return to the previous standards and will be “de-politicized”. At the same time, medical treatments will become more comprehensive.

Final analysis conclusion:

The COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading, and new mutations are constantly emerging, but the virus is also showing signs of gradually weakening. When people are not in panic mode about the spread of the virus, and with steady vaccine research and development, the government’s pandemic policy framework will gradually normalize, in addition to that better treatment drugs will become available. Then, countries will no longer adopt radical pandemic control policies, the global supply chain will gradually return to normal, and the global economy will enter a process of stable recovery. If there are no major incidents, this scenario may happen in the fall of 2022.

Anbound

Anbound Consulting (Anbound) is an independent Think Tank with the headquarter based in Beijing. Established in 1993, Anbound specializes in public policy research, and enjoys a professional reputation in the areas of strategic forecasting, policy solutions and risk analysis. Anbound's research findings are widely recognized and create a deep interest within public media, academics and experts who are also providing consulting service to the State Council of China.

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