Coronavirus may never go away, World Health Organisation warns as global deaths approach 300,000

Telegraph reporters
A deserted street in Miami, Florida. Experts warn that the coronavirus could be "endemic in our communities" - CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images
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The coronavirus may never go away, the World Health Organisation has warned, and called upon a "massive effort" from global governments to fight the disease as the global death toll approached 300,000.

Mike Ryan, the WHO emergencies director, said on Wednesday that the virus that causes Covid-19 could become endemic like HIV, warning against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating.

"It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away," Mr Ryan said.

"I think it is important we are realistic and I don't think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear," he added.

"I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be."

Medical staff at a hospital in San Jose, Chile - Claudio Santana/Getty Images

However, he said the world had some control over how it coped with the disease, although this would take a "massive effort" even if a vaccine was found - a prospect he described as a "massive moonshot".

More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including several in clinical trials, but experts have underscored the difficulties of finding vaccines that are effective against coronaviruses.

Ryan noted that vaccines exist for other illnesses, such as measles, that have not been eliminated.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general added: "The trajectory is in our hands, and it's everybody's business, and we should all contribute to stop this pandemic."

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Mr Ryan said "very significant control" of the virus was required in order to lower the assessment of risk, which he said remained high at the "national, regional and global levels".

Governments around the world are struggling with the question of how to reopen their economies while still containing the virus, which has infected more 4.3 million people and led to more than 296,000 deaths.

The European Union pushed on Wednesday for a gradual reopening of borders within the bloc that have been shut by the pandemic, saying it was not too late to salvage some of the summer tourist season while still keeping people safe.

But public health experts say extreme caution is needed to avoid new outbreaks. Mr Ryan said opening land borders was less risky than easing air travel, which was a "different challenge".

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