Corona: How long? Or are we just at the beginning of the crisis?

Corona: How long? Or are we just at the beginning of the crisis?

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We are only at the beginning of the pandemic

It was a little over 100 days ago that the World Health Organization (WHO) first reported a group of unusual pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. About a month later, the WHO announced a global pandemic. Many people are now wondering how long it will take to get through this. Several experts stress that we are only at the beginning of the pandemic.

Professor Christian Drosten is arguably the best-known coronavirus expert in Germany. In his NDR podcast, he emphasizes that we have to make it clear that we are not in the middle of an epidemic here, but only at the beginning. In order to give a realistic estimate of how long this pandemic will continue, it must first be known how many people have had the disease and have trained antibodies.

Antibody tests should show where we are

Many people hope that it will soon become apparent that many people have long been behind the infection and have antibodies without even realizing it. "It won't turn out that way," emphasizes Drosten. "I can say that, among other things, because we have of course already started testing, but because I also hear from colleagues in other countries, where the epidemics are similarly advanced, that this is simply not the case." It has so far not come as a surprise large number of undetected genuinely positive antibody results discovered.

Antibody positive growth rate unknown

According to Drosten, the pandemic will stop as soon as around 70 percent of the population has trained antibodies. “We also want to understand as quickly as possible how quickly this happens,” says the virologist. As a baseline, broad-based antibody tests must be performed to see how many antibody positives are in the population. Even if, according to Drosten, there are not many people at the moment, such a test serves as an indication of the current state. Such tests would then have to be repeated at regular intervals to see how quickly this group is growing. Only with this knowledge can a realistic estimate be made.

Unreported number determined in Heinsberg

Another renowned expert in this context is Professor Dr. Hendrik Streeck, who is researching for the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia directly in the severely affected district of Heinsberg. The team around Streeck disclosed for the first time the number of unreported cases within the severely affected area. Antibodies were found in 14 percent of the people tested by random sampling in the Gangelt population. Two percent had an acute infection.

This shows that even in small, severely affected areas, the epidemic is still in the early stages. In other places in Germany, the number of antibody positives is likely to be far below this value. But there are also positive things to report: the mortality rate among those infected in Gangelt is 0.37 percent, which is well below the 1.98 percent that Johns Hopkins University reports as a mortality rate.

We have to live with SARS-CoV-2 for now

"The initial results of the study show that this is a virus that needs to be taken seriously - and that the measures taken to date have been correct to curb the spread," said Streeck of his interim results. "We have to learn to live with SARS-2 and to correctly classify the dangers."

When will the first vaccine be available?

Dr. Gregory Poland is an infectious disease expert and head of a vaccine research group at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the United States. The Mayo Clinic is also the national coordination center for plasma therapies with antibodies against COVID-19. In a recent clinic release, Poland gives an estimate of when the first vaccine will be available in the United States.

Groups around the world, including the Mayo Clinic, are currently involved in vaccine development. “There are about 60 vaccine candidates to look out for,” explains Poland. So far, only one has been in a phase I clinical trial in the United States. The question of when a vaccine against COVID-19 could be available is, according to Dr. Poland a difficult question. "I think an optimistic - and I will say very optimistic - milestone could be in the period from 18 to 24 months," said the vaccine expert. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Mayo Clinic: 100 days of COVID-19: Mayo Clinic expert discusses how far we've come and what lies ahead (published: April 9th, 2020),
  • State government of North Rhine-Westphalia: Handover of the first results of the research project "Covid-19 Case Cluster Study" to the state government (published: April 9th, 2020),
  • Prof. Dr. Hendrik Streeck, u.a .: Preliminary results and conclusions of the COVID-19 case cluster study (municipality of Gangelt) (published: April 9th, 2020),
  • NDR: Coronavirus update (29) with Christian Drosten: Use tests more specifically (published: April 8th, 2020),

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