Humanity will have to live with the threat of coronavirus “for the foreseeable future” and adapt accordingly because there is no guarantee that a vaccine can be successfully developed, one of the world’s leading experts on the disease has warned.
The stark message was delivered by David Nabarro, professor of global health at Imperial College, London, and an envoy for the World Health Organisation on Covid-19, as the number of UK hospital deaths from the virus passed 15,000.
A further 888 people were reported on Saturday to have lost their lives – a figure described by communities secretary Robert Jenrick as “extremely sobering” – while the total number who have been infected increased by 5,525 to 114,217.
The latest figures, which do not include deaths in care homes and in the community, put further pressure on the government amid continuing anger among NHS workers and unions over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital and care home staff on the front line.
In late March the government’s health advisers said that if UK deaths from Coronavirus could be kept below 20,000 by the end of the pandemic, it would be a “good result” for the country. But with an estimated 6,000 people have already died in care homes from Covid-19 – a figure not included in Saturday’s official tally – the 20,000 figure is likely already to have been exceeded.
In an interview with The Observer Nabarro said the public should not assume that a vaccine would definitely be developed soon – and would have to adapt to the ongoing threat.
“You don’t necessarily develop a vaccine that is safe and effective against every virus. Some viruses are very, very difficult when it comes to vaccine development – so for the foreseeable future, we are going to have to find ways to go about our lives with this virus as a constant threat.
“That means isolating those who show signs of the disease and also their contacts. Older people will have to be protected. In addition hospital capacity for dealing with cases will have to be ensured. That is going to be the new normal for us all.” (The Guardian)