The reservoirs and amplifiers of SARS-CoV-2

I was struck by the phrase used in this warning from Sage about the necessity of vaccination in prison. They point to the risk that prisons become “reservoirs and amplifiers” of the virus as the virus continues to circulate within these institutions. If I understand correctly, the risk is that these conditions create selection pressures which will amplify the most virulent strains within circulation because they will be the most likely to passed on within the prison. Furthermore, there’s the possibility to generate new strains due to ‘recombination events’ which happen when multiple strains meet each other.

Understanding these reservoirs and amplifiers will play a crucial role in grasping post-pandemic inequality. There’s not an ‘off’ switch to a pandemic but rather a tendency for it to fade as a daily concern for ever larger swathes of the population, in a process of normalisation liable to be interrupted by resurgences which can easily be cast as coming from undesirable elements who are outside the mainstream of society. This is why the cultural politics of resurgent SARS-CoV-2 in a post-vaccination nation have the potential to be so poisonous, amplifying the most reactionary currents which already existed within those societies.

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