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Asian American Medical Society

In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about the Coronavirus transmission rates and symptoms this virus brings. From March 11, 2020, to the current year of February 2022, Covid-19 is still classified as a pandemic. However, one question still remains in the air: When will this pandemic end?

First, let us distinguish the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic. According to Oxford Languages, a pandemic is defined as “(of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world” while an epidemic is defined as “a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.” This means in the earlier stages of Covid, back in 2019, it would have been classified as an epidemic as it was only prevalent in China. As Covid spreads to other nations via air travel, tourism, etc, it then gets bumped up to a pandemic.

There isn’t a clear or universally agreed on definition for when a pandemic is over, as the World Health Organization's emergencies chief states “It’s somewhat a subjective judgment because it’s not just about the number of cases. It’s about the severity and it’s about impact.” That being said, a pandemic is usually considered over once the majority of people have developed immunity and there are 3 strategies governments can use to do this: vaccination, coordination, or do nothing.

For the vaccination option, governments will conduct widespread testing, quarantine infected individuals and close contacts as well as enforce social distancing. Though the virus will still spread, this strategy can minimize casualties and buy time for the development of a vaccine that will be widespread enough to cause herd immunity. This is when a large percentage of a community becomes immune. After herd immunity is in place, Covid dies out or becomes a much lower threat.

The coordination option requires much more cooperation between nations in order to successfully pull off. In this strategy, the goal is to starve the virus completely, meaning there will have to be strict enforcement on travel, lockdown, and social distancing. This, in theory, is the fastest option as if no one travels or leaves their homes, the virus won’t have any hosts to infect and spread, therefore starving it out.

The final option, do nothing, is exactly what it sounds like. In this strategy, nothing is put in place to try and stop or manage the spread of the virus. This will lead to a very large infection and casualty rate in communities. Eventually, people who survive will gain natural immunity to the virus, and herd immunity will take place.

The vaccination option is widely considered to be the best one because it minimizes casualties while ensuring a long-term solution to Covid. Any of the 3 results can lead to the end of the Covid pandemic, as once the majority of people build up immunity, the virus will mellow out and become less deadly or infectious. However, though the pandemic may be over, Covid could return seasonally like the common cold. This is where vaccination comes in, as they will continue to ensure immunity and prevent another resurgence of Covid.

Overall, an exact date to when this will all end isn’t clear. But one thing is for certain, as long as we stay determined, continue to follow protocol, and continue vaccine research, it won’t be long until we can enjoy traveling and hanging out with friends again.


Achenbach, J., Cha, A. E., & Sellers, F. S. (2021, March 9). A viral tsunami: How the underestimated coronavirus took over the world. Washington Post.

Cheng, M. (2021, December 9). How will the world decide when the pandemic is over? ABC News.

Downs, M. (n.d.). What Is a Pandemic? WebMD.

TED-Ed [Alex Rosenthal]. (2020, June 1). When is a pandemic over? [Video]. YouTube.

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