On a weekend when many pandemic-weary people emerged from weeks of lockdown, leaders in the US and Europe weighed the risks and rewards of lifting Covid-19 restrictions knowing that a vaccine could take years to develop.
In separate stark warnings, two major European leaders bluntly told their citizens that the world needs to adapt to living with the coronavirus and cannot wait to be saved by a vaccine.
“We are confronting this risk, and we need to accept it, otherwise we would never be able to relaunch,” Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said, acceding to a push by regional leaders to allow restaurants, bars and beach facilities to open Monday, weeks ahead of an earlier timetable.
The warnings from Conte and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came as governments worldwide and many US states struggled with restarting economies blindsided by the pandemic.
Britain’s Johnson, who was hospitalised last month with a serious bout of Covid-19, speculated Sunday that a vaccine may not be developed at all, despite the huge global effort to produce one.
“I said we would throw everything we could at finding a vaccine,” Johnson wrote in the Mail on Sunday. “There remains a very long way to go, and I must be frank that a vaccine might not come to fruition.”
Separately, Tom Inglesby, director of the Centre for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, said a vaccine this year was “far from a sure thing”.
In the US, images of crowded bars, beaches and boardwalks suggested some weren’t heeding warnings to safely enjoy reopened spaces while limiting the risks of spreading infection.
US President Donald Trump has been keen to restart the world’s biggest economy despite the US recording a world-worst 89,000 deaths and nearly 1.48 million cases.
Coronavirus has infected over 4.6 million people and killed more than 314,000 worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts say under counts the true toll of the pandemic.
In China, where the virus was first detected late last year but has largely been brought under control, the government’s senior medical adviser warned of just such a second wave due to a lack of widespread immunity.
“We are facing (a) big challenge; it’s not better than the foreign countries, I think, at the moment,” Zhong Nanshan told CNN.