The coming weeks will be “critical” in containing the spread of coronavirus in the UK, an expert has said.
Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar warned that the country was not through the Covid-19 pandemic, and that community transmission was going to increase in the weeks to come.
The Wellcome Trust director and Sage member believes the UK is two to four weeks behind Europe, as it has been since the beginning of the outbreak.
Speaking at a Wellcome media briefing, he said: “I think that community transmission is going to increase over the coming weeks.
“And with that this new phase, the next six weeks are going to be absolutely critical.
“And the really important question is whether we can contain the community transmission, which will increase.”
Dr Farrar explained that the real concern lay in transmission spreading to the more vulnerable parts of the population.
He added: “Yes the elderly, people from BAME backgrounds and whether it’s allowed to get into hospital transmission and indeed into care homes.
“That’s got to be the focus. The community transmission will go on. It’s whether we can prevent that coming across into other more vulnerable populations in the future.
“And nobody should be under an illusion this infection is going away – this is now a human endemic infection.”
Dr Farrar said social distancing, hand-washing, and wearing masks were very important, but they were not an exit strategy.
He explained that an exit strategy would come via the ability to change the fundamentals of the virus – the transmission of the virus, the severity of illness that it causes, the ability to diagnose it, test it, and quarantine with non-pharmacological interventions, as well as treatments and vaccines.
Talking about the global race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, Dr Farrar said there was “no value” in vaccine nationalism.
“It won’t speed things up,” he said.
“In fact it’ll slow things down. And we have no idea where the best vaccine that is safe and effective will come from.
“But wherever it comes from, the world will need it, and multiple vaccines, so working together is absolutely critical.”
Dr Farrar said he was optimistic a vaccine would be developed, maybe by the latter stages of this year, but “certainly” into 2021.