haseltine5_Brian van der Brug  Los Angeles Times via Getty Images_covid hospital Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Year Ahead 2021

There Will Be No Quick COVID Fix

Rather than waiting and hoping that scientists will deliver a fully effective vaccine or breakthrough treatment for COVID-19, the hardest-hit countries need to be fostering better leadership, governance, and social solidarity. Technology alone will not save us from the virus; we must save ourselves.

CAMBRIDGE – COVID-19 stormed across the planet in 2020, striking first in Asia and then surging throughout Europe and the Americas in what seemed like an endless tidal wave of grief. With each passing milestone – the first 100 deaths in January, followed by the first 1,000 in February, 10,000 in March, 100,000 in April, and one million as of September – the question always has been when it will it end.

Despite its virulence, many simply assume that the pandemic will end sometime in 2021. But such hopes are misplaced. Controlling an epidemic involves four fundamental components: leadership, governance, social solidarity, and a medical toolkit. Most countries today have failed on the first three, all but ensuring that COVID-19 will remain with us over the next year.

Most likely, winter in the northern hemisphere will bring a sharp rise in infections and deaths. The losses will be particularly pronounced in Europe and North America, where daily infection rates were already spiking in mid-autumn. And just as the weather starts to warm in the north, South America will cool and another epidemic wave will crash over us.

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