The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 “may never go away” and could become endemic like HIV, the World Health Organisation said as global cases topped 4.3 million.
The comment by WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan underscored the challenges as nations grapple with how to reopen businesses after the pandemic forced half of the planet into some form of lockdown.
Desperate to save millions of tourism jobs, the European Union has set out plans for a phased restart of travel this summer, with EU border controls eventually lifted and measures to minimise the risks of infection, like wearing face masks on shared transport.
And Japan’s government said Thursday it wants to lift a state of emergency declared over the coronavirus in most of the country, though not yet the capital Tokyo and other urban centres.
But with the global death toll from the coronavirus exceeding 292,000, the picture was grim in other parts of the world.
Chile imposed a total lockdown in its capital Santiago after a 60 per cent surge in cases over the past 24 hours.
The capital has been by far the hardest hit and the country has until now imposed selective quarantine measures.
Russia, now the country with the second-highest number of virus cases, recorded more than 10,000 new infections after authorities this week eased restrictions to allow some people back to work.
The United States recorded 1,813 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 84,059, according to the latest real-time tally Wednesday reported by Johns Hopkins University.
The country – hardest hit by the pandemic in terms of the number of fatalities – has now confirmed a total of 1,389,935 cases, the Baltimore-based school reported.
‘This virus may never go away’, WHO says
The world has a long way to go before lowering the alert level on the novel coronavirus, senior UN health official Mike Ryan said on Wednesday, warning that the development of a vaccine would not guarantee victory over the Covid-19 disease.
The World Health Organiation (WHO) declared an international health emergency at the end of January, and silencing that alarm is not on the horizon, the agency’s emergency operations chief Ryan told an online press briefing from Geneva.
“There is a long way to go before any bells are unrung,” he said.
Countries that have seen infection rates fall must stay vigilant and must take quick action to quell any new uptick, he said, citing South Korea, China and Germany as recent positive examples in that regard.
The senior WHO official cautioned that the novel coronavirus might keep circulating to some extent, rather than being eliminated.
“This virus may never go away,” he said.
After a vaccine is developed, it must also be made available to the entire world at affordable prices and people must be willing to receive it, Ryan stressed.
“We have some perfectly effective vaccines on this planet that we have not been used effectively,” Ryan said, citing unsuccessful efforts to stamp out measles.
However, Ryan pointed out that viruses and diseases can be kept under control even without vaccines, such as HIV.
“We’ve found the therapies and we’ve found the prevention methods, and people don’t feel as scared as they did before,” he said about HIV.