Researchers at the World Health Organisation (WHO) have said COVID-19 will likely become endemic, meaning it is ever present in the population to some degree. Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO Emergencies programme, issued a stark warning when he described the pandemic as “very severe” while anticipating worse scenarios in the future.
Dr Ryan described the planet as “fragile” and said we “need to get our act together” after this “wake-up call”.
On Tuesday, he told the organisation’s final media briefing for 2020: “I will say one thing which may come as a shock to people.
“This pandemic has been very severe. It has spread around the world extremely quickly and has affected every corner of this planet.
“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.”
Professor David Heymann, chair of the WHO’s strategic and technical advisory group for infectious hazards, said “it appears the destiny of SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] is to become endemic”.
As of Tuesday, 81.9million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide, with 1.79million deaths.
In the UK, the total number of daily cases rose above 50,000 for the first time, with 53,135 confirmed, leaving hospitals in London, the south east and the east of England on the brink.
Great strain has been placed on UK hospitals, with ambulances seen queueing outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel and Queen’s Hospital in Romford, both in east London.
A junior doctor working in London said his hospital was “aggressively overstretched” by coronavirus patients.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, also described the pandemic as a “wake up call”.
She told the online briefing: “You’ve heard everyone here say that these mutations will continue to happen.
“We need even more resolve.
“I know everyone is tired. I know that we are all fed up with this and want this to be over.
“Vaccines are coming online. This is an incredibly powerful tool.
“We cannot lose this battle now.”