The head of the EU’s Disease Control Agency warned on Friday that the novel coronavirus could last indefinitely, even if global infections slowed by almost half in the last month and vaccine adoption gained momentum in parts of the world.
In an interview with AFP, ECDC chief Andrea Ammon urged European countries in particular not to protect themselves from a virus that “appears to be very well adapted to humans” and may require experts to optimize vaccines over time as is the case with seasonal flu.
“So we should be prepared to keep it with us,” said Ammon, director of the Stockholm-based European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
After the recent harsh wave of a pandemic that began in China more than a year ago, glimmers of hope flickered when an AFP database showed the rate of new Covid-19 infections slowed 44.5 percent worldwide over the past month.
More than 107 million people are infected worldwide and almost 2.4 million have died from Covid-19.
However, disease experts warned vaccines would not end the pandemic unless all countries were dosed quickly and fairly.
In an open letter published in the Lancet medical journal, with vaccine stockpiling in wealthier countries, authors said, “It could take years to get coronavirus under control on a global scale.”
The warning came when U.S. vaccine maker Moderna sought approval from regulators around the world to add 50 percent more coronavirus vaccines to each of its vials in an effort to rapidly increase current levels of supply.
In the UK, a sharp drop in infections and the acceleration in vaccinations have led some members of the ruling Conservative Party to push for the home stay rules to be lifted in early March.
Much of the country re-entered lockdown in early January to contain a more transmissible variant of Covid-19, which was first identified in the UK.
The UK government was cautious nonetheless, a catchphrase that has been repeated elsewhere, including Italy, Portugal and Australia.
In Australia, more than six million people in Melbourne and the surrounding area were on a five-day coronavirus emergency lockdown.
“It’s tough. It’s going to be a tough couple of days for everyone,” said tennis star Serena Williams, reacting to the blocking moments after her last win at the Australian Open.
While the game continues under the restrictions, fans are no longer allowed and players must limit themselves to bio-safe “bubbles”.
The toll on sports, entertainment and business continued to be massive.
The Tokyo Olympics are slated to open in July after several delays.
But game organizers are already grappling with public concerns about holding the big international event this summer.
Record decline for the UK economy
The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, called on the 27 EU member states to accelerate the ratification of an important part of the bloc’s € 750 billion plan in order to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
The UK, which has left the EU and has the highest number of virus deaths in Europe after a heavily criticized initial response to the pandemic, reported the economy contracted 9.9 percent over the past year.
Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak admitted the impact would be “a major shock” and warned, “We should expect the economy to deteriorate before it improves.”
Hungary has since said it will be the first EU country to use the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
The country split from the EU last month when it became the first bloc member to approve Sputnik V and give two million doses over three months, enough to vaccinate a million people.
Russia registered Sputnik V in August, months ahead of Western competitors but before large clinical trials began, which made some experts suspicious.
However, recent results published in The Lancet found that the vaccine was 91.6 percent effective against Covid-19.
Some EU heads of state and government seem to embrace the idea of using Sputnik V as the bloc is grappling with supply shortages for the three vaccines it has approved.
Plans to vaccinate all Americans
The European Medicines Agency has so far approved vaccines for the block that were developed by the US-German company Pfizer-BioNTech, the US-American company Moderna and the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca at Oxford University.
The EMA announced on Friday that it had started an “ongoing review” of a vaccine from the German manufacturer CureVac, the first step towards possible approval.
In the United States – the hardest-hit country in the world with more than 480,000 deaths – health officials on Friday urged schools to reopen safely and as soon as possible, and laid out a detailed plan to limit the spread of Covid-19 in front.
The strategy focuses on universal masking, hand washing, disinfection and contact tracing. While it recommends vaccination for teachers and staff, it does not say it is necessary – a point of contention among teachers’ unions.
The push comes as the United States is in the midst of an aggressive mass vaccination campaign aimed at vaccinating nearly all Americans by the end of July.
Brazil’s hard-hit drive to vaccinate its population has stalled this week as a shortage of doses forced authorities to slow or stop vaccination in several key areas.
However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the introduction of Covid-19 vaccines in Canada in March will be back on track to make up for recent delays.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)