One of the most important things you can be doing right now to stop the spread of coronavirus is social distancing, which means separating people to avoid the spread of illness. Examples of this include working from home instead of going to the office, closing schools, and cancelling large meetings. The goal of this is to “flatten the curve”, or slow the rate of coronavirus infections so hospitals have enough room, supplies and doctors for all of the patients who need care. However, how long will social distancing last?
Well a recent report from the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team suggests that this strategy may need to be maintained until a vaccine is ready – up to 18 months from now! However, such a long period would have real social and economic costs, and could likely be replaced by a strategy of intermittent social distancing, where interventions are relaxed based on disease surveillance and reintroduced when transmission rebounds. In any case, you should plan on doing this for at least 6-8 weeks, at which point public health officials will be able to assess how much longer these interventions are necessary.