The rhetoric of warfare dominated the airways early in the pandemic.When Xi Jinping initially toured Wuhan, he declared that China would win a “people’s war” against the coronavirus. Donald Trump used the Defence Production Act to produce masks, and also ensure a steady supply of American beef, pork and chicken. Boris Johnson declared himself head of a “wartime government,” while Scott Morrison insisted “we are in a war against this virus and all Australians are enlisted to do the right thing”.Now the rhetoric is starting to shift. Politicians and business executives around the world are telling us that we must learn to “live with the virus”. But there are many different possible approaches to everyday life with the coronavirus.Living with the virus could become a euphemism for forcing vulnerable people back to work in dangerous situations. In Europe, red tape is preventing nearly four million undocumented migrants from accessing Covid-19 vaccines. Yet migrant labour remains “essential” to many sectors of the economy – from agriculture to meat packing plants, and gigs with Amazon and Deliveroo.In many other parts of the world – including South Africa, the Philippines and Bangladesh – Covid vaccines remain inaccessible to all but a select few. Living with the virus in these places still means that many people will be dying from the virus. Australia enjoyed periods of living without the virus in early 2021 but eradicating the coronavirus has proved all but impossible. Elected officials have now accepted they can no longer achieve “zero Covid” with ongoing lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne.Vulnerable members of Australian society should be protected before lockdown measures are lifted. Problems with the vaccine rollout campaign mean that many Australians remain at risk.Nursing home staff, people with disability in care facilities, Indigenous communities, asylum seekers, homeless people and many essential workers have all faced difficulties in accessing vaccines. Targeted campaigns are now focusing on many of these communities. Creative and bespoke approaches can fill the gaps by bringing vaccines to the places where vulnerable people live and sleep. Australia can responsibly and ethically live with the virus once these exposed communities are protected.It is possible to now live without fear of serious disease and death, even as the coronavirus circulates in society. Alexander Gorbalenya, the lead scientist on the team that gave the virus an official name – Sars-CoV-2 –insists that it is possible to live in peace with viruses.Generally it is not in the best interest of a virus to make its host sick. When viruses infect our bodies they rely on our cells to reproduce. When a virus kills its host it has reached a dead end. As many politicians worry about new dangers posed by the Delta variant and “breakthrough” infections in vaccinated people, Gorbalenya and other members of the virology community see evidence that the coronavirus is adapting – learning to better live with us without making us gravely ill.Gorbalenya is heartened by a basic fact: the vast majority of people who become infected with the virus, Sars-CoV-2, do not actually develop the disease, Covid-19. Even before effective vaccines and medical treatments were available, most people who contracted the coronavirus recovered. While the world approaches a grim milestone, with nearly 5 million people dead, the recovery rate has steadily improved. Better survival rates, in part, reflect better medical interventions. Improving recovery rates may also be a result of adaptive viral evolution.It is critically important to distinguish deadly viral agents from benign infections. Some viruses – like chickenpox – have been deliberately spread among young people in schools so that children do not experience severe disease as adults. This approach may not work with the coronavirus.Young children are not at serious risk of dying from Covid-19. While some warn of the potentially debilitating effects of long Covid in children, the latest research suggests that the symptoms rarely persist. A systematic review of the basic medical science found that “long Covid” in children is difficult to distinguish from the stress of life in the pandemic. Balancing the social and psychological needs of children, and risks to their health that come with coronavirus exposure, is one of the trickiest immediate dilemmas as we chart pathways to life with the coronavirus.While very young children are still unable to access the vaccine in most countries, a new clinical trial suggests that the Pfizer shot is safe and effective for 5- to 11-year-olds. While in some parts of Australia, teenagers are getting vaccinated faster than other groups.Vaccines are not the only tool available to protect children. New do-it-yourself antigen tests, which are accurate and return rapid results, are now widely available in Europe and the United States. As Australian leaders end lockdown restrictions and schools reopen, regular testing could help keep children safe.The coronavirus is not our enemy. No virus is “actively opposed or hostile” towards us, as the dictionary defines the word. For better or for worse, warfare is something that humans wage with each other. In the early stages of the pandemic, the rhetoric of warfare may have been useful as a method for mobilising action and encouraging responsible behaviour such as mask-wearing. Fear is a powerful motivator.With new routines and solid medical systems in place, it is time to begin considering how to live in peace with the coronavirus. We have all experienced collective anxiety and social isolation. As basic health and wellbeing is again guaranteed in some parts of the world, it is possible to once again return to workplaces and celebrate the value of social connections and cultural events.Times of peace are often experienced unevenly. A new era of international health inequality has emerged as different countries conduct experiments in living with viruses. Life-saving medical interventions remain unavailable in many parts of the world. Health for some is possible, even as many suffer. Keeping borders closed will not solve international health problems.It is therefore essential to invest in social and medical programs that will build equity in a world where we are all living with an inescapable virus.