GENEVA (Reuters) - The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could become endemic like HIV, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, warning against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating and calling for a “massive effort” to counter it. “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,” WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan told an online briefing. “I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear,” he added. “I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.”
However, he said the world had some control over how it coped with the disease, although this would take a “massive effort” even if a vaccine was found — a prospect he described as a “massive moonshot”.
More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including several in clinical trials, but experts have underscored the difficulties of finding vaccines that are effective against coronaviruses.
Ryan noted that vaccines exist for other illnesses, such as measles, that have not been eliminated.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added: “The trajectory is in our hands, and it’s everybody’s business, and we should all contribute to stop this pandemic.”
Ryan said “very significant control” of the virus was required in order to lower the assessment of risk, which he said remained high at the “national, regional and global levels”.
Governments around the world are struggling with the question of how to reopen their economies while still containing the virus, which has infected almost 4.3 million people, according to a Reuters tally, and led to over 291,000 deaths.
The European Union pushed on Wednesday for a gradual reopening of borders within the bloc that have been shut by the pandemic, saying it was not too late to salvage some of the summer tourist season while still keeping people safe.
But public health experts say extreme caution is needed to avoid new outbreaks. Ryan said opening land borders was less risky than easing air travel, which was a “different challenge”.
“We need to get into the mindset that it is going to take some time to come out of this pandemic,” WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove told the briefing.
Reporting by Michael Shields and Emma Farge; Writing by Alex Richardson; Editing by Kevin Liffey
The pace of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak means information is changing all the time. Here is the latest data on infection hotspots and deaths from the virus.
GLOBAL GATHERING RECOMMENDS
NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus may be thousands of fatalities worse than the tally kept by the city and state, according to an analysis released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between March 11 and May 2, about 24,000 more people ...
The coronavirus pandemic is straining social safety nets across the globe — and underlining sharp differences in approach between wealthy societies such as the United States and Europe. In Europe, the collapse in business activity is triggering wage support programs that are keeping millions ...
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. unemployment rate rocketed to 14.7% in April, a level last seen during the Great Depression, as 20.5 million jobs vanished in the worst monthly loss on record — stark evidence of how the coronavirus has brought the economy to its knees.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of people are rolling up their sleeves in countries across the world to be injected with experimental vaccines that might stop COVID-19, spurring hope — maybe unrealistic — that an end to the pandemic may arrive sooner than anticipated. About 100 research groups are...
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will trial a new coronavirus tracing programme next week on the Isle of Wight, just off the south coast of England, cabinet minister Michael Gove said on Sunday as the government looks at how to minimise the risk of a second wave of infection. Suffering one of the w...
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. regulators on Friday allowed emergency use of an experimental drug that appears to help some coronavirus patients recover faster. It is the first drug shown to help fight COVID-19, which has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide. President Donald Trump announced...
LONDON (AP) — Queen and singer Adam Lambert have a message for workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 fight: “You Are the Champions.” Brian May, Roger Taylor and Lambert recently gathered virtually to record a new version of the Queen classic, “We Are the Champions.” “You Are the Champio...
Scientists on Wednesday announced the first effective treatment against the coronavirus — an experimental drug that can speed the recovery of COVID-19 patients — in a major medical advance that came as the economic gloom caused by the scourge deepened in the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. governmen...
BERLIN (Reuters) - Governments should focus on climate protection when considering fiscal stimulus packages to support an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday. Her comments are the clearest sign yet that Merkel wants to combine the ta...