The coronavirus “may never go away”, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
“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. HIV has not gone away, but we have come to terms with the virus,” 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. 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, Ryan said the world had some control over how it coped with the disease, although this would take a “massive effort” even if a vaccine were 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 ones that are effective against coronaviruses.
Ryan noted vaccines exist for other illnesses, such as measles, but they have still 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.
“Many countries would like to get out of the different measures,” said Tedros. “But our recommendation is still the alert at any country should be at the highest level possible.”
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”.
More than half of humanity has been put under some form of lockdown since the coronavirus crisis began in January.
Governments around the world are struggling with the question of how to reopen their economies while still containing the virus, with some 4.3 million confirmed cases around the world, and more than 291,000 deaths.