Covid 'may not be the “big one” and there could be worse pandemics to come'

The World Health Organisation has given a stark warning that there could be worse pandemics than Covid-19, saying the world must prepare.

Dr Mark Ryan the head of the WHO emergencies program, said coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is likely to become endemic, and that countries would have to learn to live with it even after a vaccine is rolled out.

He warned however that future pandemics may be even harder to cope with.

‘I will say one thing, which may come as a shock to people,’ he said.

‘This pandemic has been very severe. It has spread around the world extremely quickly and has affected every corner of this planet,’ he said.

‘But this is not necessarily the big one.

‘This virus is very transmissible. It kills people and it has deprived so many people of loved ones.

‘But its current case fatalities is reasonably low in comparison to other emerging diseases.

‘This is a wake-up call. We are learning, now, how to do things better: science, logistics, training and governance, how to communicate better. But the planet is fragile.

‘We live in an increasingly complex global society. These threats will continue. If there is one thing we need to take from this pandemic, with all of the tragedy and loss, is we need to get our act together. We need to get ready for something that may even be more severe in future.

‘We need to honour those we’ve lost by getting better at what we do every day.’

Echoing him, epidemiologist Dr MariaVan Kerkhove said that the new mutations of coronavirus should be a ‘wake-up call’.

She said: ‘You’ve heard everyone here say that these mutations will continue to happen. We need even more resolve. I know everyone is tired and fed up with this and wants this to be over.

‘Vaccines are coming online. This is an incredibly powerful tool.

‘We cannot lose this battle now. We are all in this together and we need to reduce transmission everywhere we can.

‘With these variants… all of these Sars-Cov-2 viruses can be controlled with the measures that we have in place, with adherence to the measures that we have, with the tools that we have in our toolbox.’

WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said that vaccines would prevent people getting severe disease themselves, but would not necessarily stop them from passing on the virus to others.

She said: ‘I don’t believe we have the evidence on any of the vaccines to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from actually getting the infection and therefore being able to pass it on.

‘So I think we need to assume that people who have been vaccinated also need to take the same precautions.’

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