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Will the coronavirus pandemic start over again when human activity returns to normal?

A recent study from infectious disease experts at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom modeled how things might evolve depending on what measures governments take now. These models predict that aggressive suppression measures, such as isolation of infected people and their family members, and physical distancing of the entire population, including potential business and school closures, will need to be maintained until a vaccine is developed.

Even if these measures are effective in reducing the spread of the virus, transmission of it is likely to increase as soon as the suppression measures are relaxed. The Imperial College study indicates that it may be possible to periodically relax the suppression measures, but that they will then need to be re-introduced as cases of infection begin to rise again. This cycle would continue until a vaccine is available.

However, research is still ongoing, and many open questions remain about how the pandemic will evolve over time. We will gain new insights, for example, as countries that used suppression measures during the height of their outbreaks (such as China) begin to relax those measures, and we see whether the suppression is effective longer-term, or if cases begin to rebound more quickly.

Drafted 6 April 2020