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Coronavirus Pandemic Could Take 5 Years to Control, WHO Warns

“I would say in a four to five-year timeframe we could be looking at controlling this,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist of WHO.

Susie Steck

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  • World Health Organization chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan predicted that it will take four to five years before world leaders can control the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Swaminathan also warned that there will be numerous problems such as production and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, once it is available in the market.
  • Director Peter Piot of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also encouraged countries to conduct “essential” mass testing.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan predicted that countries across the world will need “four to five years” before they will be able to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Financial Times recently organized the “Global Boardroom digital conference” and invited several experts including Dr. Swaminathan along with Peter Piot, professor of global health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and epidemiology professor Paul Franks of Lund University.

In the said conference, Dr. Swaminathan predicted that COVID-19 pandemic will continue to infect people for four to five years before the virus will be under control.

“I would say in four to five-year timeframe, we could be looking at controlling this,” she told Financial Times.

She, however, clarified that the estimate is “no crystal ball” and the COVID-19 pandemic could even “potentially get worse”.

Dr. Swaminathan said that having available vaccines against the virus is “the best way out” but warned that there will be many problems and issues that needs to address along the way, including safety, efficacy, production, and equitable distributions of the said cure once it becomes available in the market.

Piot, who was tested positive of the virus and is now recovering, said that the world needs to find ways to live with the virus – given the fact that many viruses and disease still have no available vaccines to this day.

“We will have to find way as societies to live with this and change for lockdowns to more granular, targeted types of interventions,” he said.

Dr. Swaminathan further suggested that policymakers should weigh between risks and benefits as they plan to relax restriction measures.

Meanwhile, Franks shared about the situation of Sweden, one of the few European countries that has not implemented a lockdown order. According to him, Sweden had higher fatality rate compared with its neighboring countries.

“Which was not looking good…I wouldn’t say right now it looks like open society approach has worked really well,” Franks emphasized, warning that countries now starting to ease restrictions may soon catch up with Sweden’s death toll.

The two professors said that the best way to tackle this is for world leaders to ramp up mass testing efforts. Government and private sectors should invest on procuring more test kits for their citizens.

“No option but to invest more in testing,” Piot said.

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