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Battle against virus must continue as it will not offer seasonal truce: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2020-12-21 20:30
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A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19 shared with Reuters on Feb 18, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

It was confirmed on Saturday that there were two infections related to imported cases in the downtown area of Beijing. With the close contacts of the two people infected still being traced, public health experts cautioned that how long the hard-earned normalcy of life in the country can be maintained depends on how ready people are to reengage in the war against the virus.

The winter festive season is fast approaching, and the family gatherings and socializing that are traditional at the New Year and during the Spring Festival holiday, which falls in early February this year, all pose tough challenges for pandemic control work. Despite people's longing for these celebrations to be held as normal, this is not the time for people to relax their vigilance.

A highly transmissible strain of the novel coronavirus has prompted the UK government to lock down London and southeast England, and tighten the restrictions imposed on the rest of the country over the festive period. Albeit Western media outlets such as CNN have shown a lot more restraint in reporting the news than they did when covering the lockdown of Wuhan, capital of Hubei province.

Even as a mass vaccination program is being rolled out in the United Kingdom, the pace of new infections has nearly doubled in England over the past two weeks, with the new variant accounting for more than 60 percent of the new infections. The variant has also been found in other countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands.

And on the other side of the Atlantic, in the United States, where a nationwide vaccination program was initiated last week, there was a new 24-hour record of 400,000 new infections reported on Saturday.

As such, even before the required numbers are inoculated to achieve herd immunity — which could take months in developed countries and years in the least developed countries — new infections might sharply rise over a period of time much longer than expected. And if countries halt their expensive pandemic control efforts in the belief that the vaccines are magic bullets, what awaits them will not be a long tail but even worse situations than they are experiencing now.

We are prone to personifying the virus as an enemy but in doing so, we are in danger of succumbing to the misconception that it can feel battle-fatigued like us. That is dangerous thinking, as the virus simply follows the evolutionary imperative to go forth and multiply. In doing so, it naturally mutates, with strains with slight modifications becoming predominant in some places.

It is urgent that countries coordinate their actions and keep close watch on the changes that occur. Although the current vaccines are believed to be effective against the new strain they may require modifications to maintain their efficacy against any future strains.

Likewise with the risks of battle weariness growing, it is urgent that people are reminded that even though inoculation programs are now being launched, it is essential that they still adhere to the hygiene and social distancing protocols.

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