With the phrase ‘learn to live with COVID’ becoming as insistent as a mantra or as ubiquitous as a meme, what that really means beyond the public health implications, is starting to emerge.
It would appear that the world might already be living with COVID in some forms, simply on the basis of COVID-caused new realities that assail us daily.
The much-touted 'new normal' might already be upon us in ways that we might yet not truly comprehend..or might have expected.
Might it be that the sheer fatigue of COVID - its mental drain being just one of the debilitating effects on the individual sufferer - has made us numb to the ever-present reminders of COVID around us?
Masses of masks
In the United Kingdom, a study by the University of Portsmouth found mask litter increased by 9,000% in the first seven months of the pandemic and could have led to the further spread of the virus.
Researchers from the university believe the plastic pollution caused by face mask litter could last hundreds of years and are urging the government to prevent an "environmental disaster" caused by face mask litter.
Professor Steve Fletcher, from the University of Portsmouth, said: "Without better disposal practices, an environmental disaster is looming."
PPE - persistent plastic everywhere?
Meanwhile, the global pre-pandemic war on plastic seems to have taken a hit with increased demand for PPE (personal protective equipment) adding to the problem.
An investigation by China’s Nanjing University has discovered that plastic waste from the Covid-19 pandemic has leaked into the oceans.
It said the mismanaged plastic waste, consisting of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, vastly exceeded the capability of countries to process it properly.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for single-use plastics that intensifies pressure on an already out-of-control global plastic waste problem,” the researchers said sin as study on the Magnitude and impact of pandemic-associated plastic waste published in the online journal PNAS.
“The released plastics can be transported over long distances in the ocean, encounter marine wildlife, and potentially lead to injury or even death,” they added.
Too early to be 'irie'?
Earlier this month, Reuters news agency reported that new research suggesting that a popular non-psychoactive compound derived from marijuana might help prevent or treat COVID-19 warrants further investigation in rigorous clinical trials.
It said several recent laboratory studies of cannabidiol, or CBD, have shown promising results, attracting media attention.
However, many other potential COVID treatments that showed promise in test tubes, from hydroxychloroquine to various drugs used to treat cancer and other diseases, ultimately failed to show benefit for COVID-19 patients once studied in clinical trials, the Reuters report stated.
It quoted Marsha Rosner of the University of Chicago as saying: "Our findings do not say this will work in patients. Our findings make a strong case for a clinical trial."
A separate team reported recently in the Journal of Natural Products that high doses of CBG and CBDA do prevent the coronavirus from breaking into cells.
The CBD her team tested was more than 98% pure, while purity in commercial products is far lower.
"People should not run out and get CBD from their favourite dispensary," Rosner cautioned.
Small CBD trials in humans with COVID-19 are underway, according to the Reuters report.
Masks minus a mandate
Masks-wearing now become a feature and necessity in western society to the extent that it has taken on the aura of a marketable fashion accessory as well. That's a far cry from donning a mask in some eastern cities because of the suffocating levels of air pollution that their residents have had to endure.
In many instances, it’s no longer even mandated and voluntary usage is part of the ‘new normal’.
The risk of catching a COVID variant, some might argue persuasively, matches and even outweighs that of air pollution, notwithstanding that COVID particles are also pollutants.
With these and other emerging changes to our way of life, it's clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our world in ways not previously imagined, and the ‘new normal’ is already upon us ... with its own interpretative mutations.