In Depth

Reaction: WHO warns that Covid-19 ‘may never go away’

UN health agency’s emergencies director says coronavirus could become endemic like HIV

uk-coronavirus.jpg

The World Health Organization has triggered a spate of speculation about the world’s future by warning that the new coronavirus may never be wiped out entirely.

Speaking at a briefing on Wednesday, the UN health agency’s emergencies director Dr Mike Ryan said that “it is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away”.

And even if a vaccine is found, keeping the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus under control would require a “massive effort”, he added.

The Daily Mail reports that if Covid-19 really is here to stay, governments will face “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?”

Underlining that point, The Telegraph says: “Governments around the world are struggling with the question of how to reopen their economies while still containing the virus, which has infected more 4.3 million people and led to more than 296,000 deaths.”

Meanwhile, Science Alert describes Ryan’s assessment as “curmudgeonly”, but concedes that “most people in the world have not yet been exposed to Covid-19, which means the world is still in a very vulnerable spot”.

WalesOnline sums up the situation as “truly depressing”, adding: “Unless there is a vaccine, it could be four or five years before enough people have had Covid-19 that it becomes just another endemic virus.” 

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As The Brussels Times notes, “more than 100 [vaccine] projects are in the running around the world and about ten clinical trials are under way”. But the European Medicines Agency this week said that even in an “optimistic” scenario, a vaccine would not be available for at least 12 months, the news site reports.

Euronews puts a more positive spin on matters, pointing out that while other previously novel diseases such as HIV have never disappeared, “effective treatments have been developed to allow people to live with the disease”.

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