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COVID-19 May Never Go Away, WHO Warns

COVID-19 May Never Go Away, WHO Warns
05/14/2020
forbes.com

Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Forbes.com

Coronavirus may never go away, the World Health Organization has warned, adding that no one can predict when the disease will disappear.

Key Facts

  • Nearly 300,000 people around the world have died after contracting COVID-19, while at least 4.3 million people have been infected since the illness was first reported in December 2019.
  • On Wednesday, WHO emergencies chief Dr. Mike Ryan said at a press conference: “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.”
  • As an example, he added that the HIV virus is still present, but that we have come to terms with the disease. Ryan said he does not believe anyone can predict when COVID-19 will “disappear,” and that there are “no promises and no dates.”
  • He suggested that even with a vaccine, the virus may still not be eliminated, but WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the trajectory of the illness is “in our hands.”
  • But it will take time to emerge from the pandemic, epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove said.

The WHO also warned that a mental health crisis is looming. Devora Kestel, head of the organization’s mental health department, warned of a rise in mental illness among young people and frontline workers as a result of the “isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil” that could cause emotional distress. The report urged governments around the world to prioritize mental health and well-being.

Coronavirus lockdowns around the world are gradually lifting, a move that is sparking concerns about a second wave of the virus. Dr. Tedros acknowledged the desire to escape restrictions to daily life, but urged countries to remain on the highest alert.

Treatment or a vaccine for COVID-19 is, at best, a year away, although scientists at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London believe a vaccine could be available as early as September. Scores of potential vaccines are currently being developed around the world.

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