As the Covid-19 pandemic enters the seasonal relaxation stage – like the past two years – Austrian scientists are already working towards next autumn and winter to predict likely scenarios.
This coincides with the onset of winter in the Southern Hemisphere where a fifth wave of infections is sweeping across South Africa due to Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, although there are no indications that the new variants lead to a more severe course of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, a working paper by a team of researchers at MedUni Vienna details five possibilities for how the pandemic could progress past the summer months.
The first scenario is the one that everyone is hoping for – the pandemic is over. In this case, the symptoms of Covid-19 would resemble a cold and any new variants would result in mild illness.
Scenario two is that we reach the endemic phase of the pandemic. This would mean there was stable immunity in the population with only slight increases in infections every one or two years.
The third scenario is similar to number two and would involve a slow transition to the endemic phase. This would result in high levels of infection during the cold season and an ongoing burden on the health system.
However, scenario four has two parts – A and B.
In 4A, the pandemic would continue to be dangerous with the emergence of new variants similar to Delta and the possibility of more lockdowns.
In 4B, the pandemic would escalate due to the virus mutating and becoming even more dangerous. In this scenario, a new adapted vaccine would have to be developed.
At this stage, all scenarios are on the table, although countries in the Southern Hemisphere, like South Africa, are not showing any signs of an escalation of Covid-19 so far.