Home Coronavirus The Big Q: What Does a ‘Zero’ COVID Goal Mean?

The Big Q: What Does a ‘Zero’ COVID Goal Mean?

by Paul Ebeling


The “Zero COVID” debate is 1 of the hottest controversies of the moment, with supporters on the defense, trying to explain exactly what they mean by the term.

Hence, The Big Q: What does Zero COVID mean?

The Big A:Elimination is not eradication.

Many infectious disease experts believe wiping out SARS-CoV-2 worldwide is not possible. But that is not what Zero COVID means, argues Deepti Gurdasani, of Queen Mary University of London, who points out that elimination is not eradication.

There is a “push from parts of the scientific community to portray Zero COVID as extreme or ignorant,” she said. “It isn’t. It has far more evidence behind it than most strategies. It has been achieved. It’s certainly worth aiming for, even if not achieved, as it saves lives and livelihoods.”

What most scientists seem to agree on are 4 foundational principles for containing COVID-19 that were outlined at the Dahlem Workshop on the Eradication of Infectious Diseases, that are the following:

  1. Control — A reduction in local case levels that requires an intervention to sustain.
  2. Elimination — Reducing local disease incidence to Zero, with interventions still needed to maintain it.
  3. Eradication — Reducing disease incidence around the world to Zero, with interventions no longer needed.
  4. Extinction— The pathogen no longer exists in nature or in the lab.

Many factors play into which of these outcomes are achievable, such as how easily the virus spreads, whether animal reservoirs exist, whether natural or vaccine-induced immunity is strong and how long it lasts, if immunity-evading variants pop up, and whether the political will to achieve such goals exists.

The experts seemed more willing to accept a “near-zero” definition, even though that varies slightly from the Dahlem Workshop classification of elimination.

If it’s near-zero, I am in 100% agreement with Deepti, as ‘near’ has quite some range,” said John Ioannidis, MD, of Stanford University. “But is it really up to us, or is it up to the virus?”

Have a healthy day, Keep the Faith!

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