What the endemic could look like in the UK - 'living with Covid' explained

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What the endemic could look like in the UK - 'living with Covid' explained
© Provided by Metro The UK is preparing to enter the endemic stage (Picture: Getty)

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Plan B rules will soon be scrapped – triggering the start of the UK’s transition from a Covid-19 pandemic to an endemic.

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The easing of restrictions comes as the country’s coronavirus cases continue to plummet.

As England prepares to remove their face masks and return to the office, many are starting to wonder what ‘living with Covid-19’ will entail.

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Here, Metro.co.uk spoke to an expert about what a post-pandemic world could look like.

What is an endemic?

You may have heard the term ‘endemic’ being thrown around by politicians, scientists, and the press over the past few weeks – but what does the term actually mean?

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Essentially, an ‘endemic’ is when a disease is constantly prevalent but is no longer disruptive or concerning.

What the endemic could look like in the UK - 'living with Covid' explained
© Provided by Metro An endemic means that the country can start to open up again (Picture: Getty)

A Covid-19 endemic means that the virus will linger in the population, with outbreaks from time to time, but it no longer wreaks nationwide havoc – meaning that we can get back to life with a greater degree of normality than in the last two years.

It is a disease that we are able to live with, much like the flu.

The flu once had the power to wipe out whole communities, but nowadays it flares up in the winter and isn’t a threat to the entire population.

What could the Covid endemic look like in the UK?

It is worth noting that the UK’s future is unclear as the Covid-19 situation develops so rapidly.

The following speculations are based on current data and research.

New Covid variants could be mild

What the endemic could look like in the UK - 'living with Covid' explained
© Provided by Metro Hopefully, future variants won’t be any worse than a cold (Picture: Getty)

Dr Shiu-Wan Chan, a Virology Lecturer at Manchester University, explained that new Covid-19 variants are ‘inevitable’ – but they will not be as ‘concerning’.

Dr Chan told Metro.co.uk: ‘The virus will become more transmissible but less virulent. This natural consequence of virus-host co-evolutionary arms race’.

If a virus is too deadly and kills off every host it comes in contact with, then it also kills itself off.

The goal of a virus is to survive, replicate, and spread – and so they tend to evolve to become less deadly, but more infective.

We have already experienced this phenomenon with the Omicron variant.

The mutated Covid-19 variant has been found to present with less severe symptoms than previous variants – closer to a bad cold than the flu – with a Scottish study finding that Omicron patients are 66% less likely to be hospitalised.

Separate research from Imperial College London indicates that people with the new strain are up to a fifth less likely to need admission to hospital.

Those who do wind up in hospital are 40 to 45% less likely to require a stay of one night or more.

Hopefully, Covid-19 will continue to get milder and milder.

Covid could become seasonal

What the endemic could look like in the UK - 'living with Covid' explained
© Provided by Metro Coronavirus cases could be limited to the winter (Picture: Getty)

Many scientists believe that outbreaks could become seasonal.

Dr Chan told Metro.co.uk, ‘[Covid-19] will become seasonal, in a way very similar to the flu’.

This means that – a lot like the common cold – Covid-19 cases could spike in the winter, when our immune systems are at their weakest, and we are most susceptible to illness.

We have already experienced this pattern in the UK, with cases rising in October and spiking in January in both 2020 and 2021.

Annual Covid boosters

What the endemic could look like in the UK - 'living with Covid' explained
© Provided by Metro You could need a yearly Covid-19 jab (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell – Pool /Getty Images)

The end of the Covid-19 pandemic may not necessarily mean the end of Covid-19 vaccinations.

The UK’s vaccination programme is expected to wind down, but that doesn’t mean they will go away entirely – they may very well be rolled out every year.

In November, Amanda Pritchard, NHS England’s Chief Executive, explained that the NHS is preparing for yearly coronavirus vaccine programmes.

In the NHS Providers annual conference, she said: ‘We are already thinking about how we can do annual booster vaccines, if they are needed.’

Professor Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M), said that repeated Covid-19 vaccinations could be offered ‘for years to come’.

He told Sky News in November: ‘In the longer term, Covid is likely to become endemic and we probably are going to have to manage it with repeated vaccination campaigns for years to come.’

Like the yearly flu vaccine, an annual Covid-19 shot may be developed to help protect against the rapidly mutating virus.

Children and animals could be vaccinated

What the endemic could look like in the UK - 'living with Covid' explained
© Provided by Metro Children below the age of 12 could be offered the vaccine (Picture: Getty)

The Covid-19 vaccine is currently being offered to children aged 12 and up, but the future may see the programme rolled out to younger kids.

In January, the World Health Organization (WHO) lowered its minimum recommended age for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine from 12 to five years old. 

A study published by researchers from the University of Utah in October found that around 50% of children who contract Covid-19 display symptoms – however, they tend to be mild.

Research has also shown that pets can catch Covid-19, and so there are calls for an animal-specific vaccine to be developed to protect our furry friends.

Some experts have been calling for cats and dogs to receive the vaccine for over a year.

Self isolation could become a thing of the past

What the endemic could look like in the UK - 'living with Covid' explained
© Provided by Metro Isolation could be scrapped – even if you have Covid-19 (Picture: Getty)

On January 19, Boris Johnson said that, if the data allows, self-isolation rules could be scrapped as early as March 24, 2022.

Mr Johnson told Parliament: ‘There will soon come a time when we can remove the legal requirement to self-isolate altogether, just as we don’t place legal obligations on people to isolate if they have flu.

‘As Covid becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance, urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others.

‘The self-isolation regulations expire on March 24, at which point I very much expect not to renew them.’

If this is the case, that means that the very last day of isolation rules will be March 23 – exactly two years to the day that the first UK lockdown was announced.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid gave a statement at a Downing Street press conference on January 19 – although it was optimistic about the end of the pandemic being on the horizon, Mr Javid also stressed the importance of remaining ‘vigilent’.

He said: ‘A pandemic is a marathon not a sprint. Even on this day of progress, I’d urge everyone to think about what they can do to keep the virus at bay. Whether it’s washing your hands, letting in fresh air, or getting tested and self-isolating if you test positive.’

Mr Javid once again urged that those who have not yet been fully vaccinated should come forward to get their jabs.

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