Letter: Change the world to stop COVID-19 and whatever’s next

Now that COVID-19, which has ravaged our communities for the past nearly two years, seems to be on the wane, we can shift our worry to larger issues we’ll be facing over the next few years — like how we’ll face the resurgence of COVID-19 and/or other viruses continuing to rage in our communities.

They’re not going away. Maybe not ever.

The real causes of COVID-19 and previous deadly viruses that have spread around the world continue to prevail. An argument could be made, has been made, that our growing global environmental crisis has forced destruction of natural habitats and increased human interaction with animals in the wild, or what remains of the wild. SARs, Ebola, COVID, and who-knows-what next, are the result.

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As for COVID alone, it promises to be around for a while longer itself. It seems clear now that we’ll never reach 100 per cent vaccination rates, as there will always be a certain percentage of people who will refuse the shots and who will serve as the vehicles for perpetuating the virus. Just as anti-vaxxers have helped to revive other diseases that medical experts thought had been eradicated or at least dormant.

Even if everyone is doubly dosed, the incidence of COVID would not fall to zero. The current vaccines, as miraculous as they are, cannot entirely eliminate our likelihood of coming down with COVID-19. Now we’re hearing about needing third shots, “boosters,” and the possibility that we’ll need to continue getting them for years to come, just like flu shots.

But let me ask: if in the midst of this pandemic and its urgent risk to life, not everyone can be persuaded to be vaccinated, what are the odds that they will all be convinced to get their annual shots after the pandemic is over?

Oh, and by the way, when we say the pandemic is nearly over, we’re really only talking about our part of the world, the developed countries (and the latest figures from the U.S. and the UK may belie even that claim). Meanwhile COVID is raging with deadly result through much of the world that does not have our access to effective vaccines. Which can repeatedly come back to bite us here in our more comfortable existence.

This is only COVID. As I said, who knows what comes next and may compound the disaster?

The virus’s message

I do not mean to be alarmist or a pessimist.

I just think we should be changing our lifestyles to prepare ourselves for what’s to come. I thought after the pandemic everyone would understand that everything has changed. But as I see people crowd back into restaurants on Danforth Avenue, or party together in our bars and clubs on Queen streets east and west, or engage in family events in our neighbourhoods without protection, I wonder whether they have got the virus’s message.

We can still socialize and entertain ourselves and enjoy family life — these are things that make life worth living.

But we need to be developing new ways of doing them that don’t risk those very lives.

Here are my three steps for a long-term solution to the ongoing COVID or other virus problem:

  1. Change our lifestyles to adopt safer practices.
  2. Help the less developed world with medicines, vaccines and whatever else they need.
  3. Stop the destruction of the environment.

All right, I appreciate these are huge, costly, politically difficult measures requiring the engagement of all of us. Essentially, calling on us to change the world.

But what’s the alternative?

Otto Richter
East York