'Coronavirus may never go away', warns World Health Organization
“This virus may never go away," said Dr Michael Ryan, in a news briefing on Wednesday. He said that the number of people infected by COVID-19 so far is relatively low.
Without a vaccine, he said it could take years for the population to build up sufficient levels of immunity to it. “I think it's important to put this on the table," he said.
“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities," he said, noting that other previously novel diseases such as HIV have never disappeared, but that effective treatments have been developed to allow people to live with the disease.
Ryan said there remains hope that an effective vaccine will be developed, but even then, it would require a huge amount of work to produce the shots and distribute them worldwide to people willing to be immunized.
“Every single one of those steps is fraught with challenges," he said.
Despite the risk that loosening restrictions could lead to infection spikes, European nations have been seeking to restart cross-border travel, particularly as the summer holiday season looms for countries whose economies rely on tourists flocking to their beaches, museums and historical sites.
The European Union unveiled a plan to help citizens across its 27 nations salvage their summer vacations after months of coronavirus lockdown and resurrect Europe's badly battered tourism industry. The pandemic has prompted border closures across Europe and shut down the lifeline of cheap local flights.
The EU's executive arm, the European Commission, laid out its advice for lifting ID checks at closed borders, helping to get airlines, ferries and buses running while ensuring the safety of passengers and crew, and preparing health measures for hotels.
It's not clear whether EU nations will follow that advice, since they, not Brussels, have the final say over health and security matters.
Meanwhile Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for COVID-19, added that she recognized some people were “in a state of feeling quite some despair," but pointed out that stopping the virus even without medical interventions was possible.
“The trajectory of this outbreak is in our hands," she said. “We have seen some countries bring the virus under control."
In the United States, the country's top infectious disease expert issued a blunt warning that cities and states could see more COVID-19 deaths and economic damage if they lift stay-at-home orders too quickly.