The ease with which the coronavirus spreads, the emergence of new strains and poor access to vaccines in large parts of the world mean Covid-19 could shift from a pandemic disease to an endemic one, implying lasting modifications to personal and societal behavior. But some organizations are planning for a long-term future in which prevention methods such as masking, good ventilation and testing continue in some form. Meanwhile, a new and potentially lucrative Covid-19 industry is emerging quickly, as businesses invest in goods and services such as air-quality monitoring, filters, diagnostic kits and new treatments.
The number of gene-detecting PCR tests produced globally is expected to grow this year, with manufacturers like New Jersey’s Quest Diagnostics Inc. predicting that millions of people will need a swab before they attend concerts, basketball games or family functions.
“We assume it would last for years, or be eternal, such as the flu,” said Jiwon Lim, spokesman for South Korea’s SD Biosensor, Inc., a test maker that is ramping up production of at-home diagnostic kits. Leading drug makers—Switzerland’s Novartis International AG and Eli Lilly & Co.—have invested in potential Covid-19 therapies. More than 300 such products are currently in development.
Airlines like Lufthansa are restructuring to focus on short-haul flights within Europe, and away from Pacific countries that have said they’ll keep borders closed for at least this year. Some airports are planning new vaccine passport systems to allow inoculated passengers to travel. Restaurants are investing in more takeout and delivery offerings. Meatpacking plants from Canada to Europe are buying up robotic arms, to curb the risk of outbreaks by reducing the number of workers on assembly lines.