The WHO has warned coronavirus ‘may never go away’ and that mankind will have to learn to live with the disease in the same way it adjusted to HIV.
Dr Mike Ryan, director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies programme, was asked yesterday how long it might take before we emerge on the other side of COVID-19.
‘I think it’s important to to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away.’ Dr Ryan told the Geneva press conference.
‘HIV has not gone away, we’ve come to terms with the virus and we have found the therapies and we found the prevention methods and people don’t feel as scared as they did before and we’re offering life to people with HIV, long healthy lives to people with HIV.’
‘I think it’s important to to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away.’ Dr Mike Ryan, director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies programme said
The Galway-trained medic added that he was not comparing the diseases in any other sense but that it was to illustrate that nobody ‘can predict when or if this disease will disappear.’
Dr Ryan was expanding on the point, particularly with regard to health experts and politicians who have continually given estimates of 12 months before a vaccine.
‘We have a new virus entering the human population,’ he said. ‘therefore it is very hard to predict when we will prevail over it.’
He explained that the number of people infected in the global population ‘is actually relatively low,’ so projections on when the virus could abate had to be grounded in the fact that this might be in the absence of a vaccine.
It comes as the number infected by the disease worldwide has soared to more than 4.3 million, while the death toll is nearing 300,000.
The prospect of the disease lingering in the population leaves governments faced with a balancing act between economic sustainability and containing the contagion.
It can be distilled to this: how many coronavirus deaths are acceptable to get an economy moving?
In the United States Donald Trump is eager for a swift resumption of economic liberties and is often against the advice of his own health officials as he tries to jumpstart the world’s largest economy before a November election.
In the United Kingdom, a highly cautious approach has been adopted and this week Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged to continue with a colossal furloughing scheme.
A laboratory technician is seen at the Inselspital Universitaetsspital Bern university hospital during researches for a vaccine against the coronavirus disease
Employees on the scheme will continue to receive 80 per cent of wages, up to a ceiling of £2,500 a month until at least October.
Experts say the cost to the public purse up to August is now expected to hit £60billion, and the final bill will be staggering.
And there are fears that rather than keeping people in work, the scheme is an exorbitant unemployment benefit, with many of the thousands set to lose their jobs once the lockdown ends.
Gerard Toplass, founder of the BusinessBounceBack campaign and executive chairman of two construction firms, said he expects there to be ‘one million people who are not necessarily going to go back to the job they had’.
Desperate to save millions of jobs, the European Union yesterday set out proposals for a phased restart of travel, with border controls to be eventually lifted, along with measures to minimise transmission.
Germany said it would fully reopen its borders with France, Switzerland and Austria by June 15 and would begin to ease checks at the frontier from as early as tomorrow.
Meanwhile Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told Britons to forget a summer holiday. ‘It is unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer,’ he said this week.
The Galway-trained medic and father-of-three, Dr Mike Ryan, has previously been critical of the phrase ‘herd immunity’, saying it should be reserved for veterinary medicine
There are more than 100 potential vaccines for the virus in development, but Dr Ryan noted that even with a vaccine the virus may never be wiped out. He gave the example of measles.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged people to continue in the fight to stop the spread of the disease.
‘The trajectory is in our hands, and it’s everybody’s business, and we should all contribute to stop this pandemic,’ he said.
WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove added: ‘We need to get into the mindset that it is going to take some time to come out of this pandemic.’