A top scientist has told the government that coronavirus may never be fully eradicated as he warned that the disease is “almost uncontrollable”.
Professor David Robertson, head of viral genomics and bioinformatics at the of University of Glasgow, told the House of Lords science and technology committee that COVID-19 could be around for years to come.
He said that, unlike Ebola, the fact that many of those infected with coronavirus experienced no symptoms makes it extremely difficult to trace.
“It is so transmissible, it’s so successful, we’re so susceptible, that actually it’s a little bit of a red herring to worry about it getting worse, because it couldn’t be much worse at the moment in terms of the numbers of cases,” Prof Robertson said.
He added: “If you contrast with Ebola, which has very high virulence, kills many, many people, it makes it very controllable and you can very readily identify the infected people.
“Whereas this virus is infecting so many people with asymptomatic to mild symptoms that it’s almost uncontrollable.
Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice
“I think we have to be clear that we’re not going to be able to eradicate this virus.
“It’s going to settle into the human population and in several years it will become a normal virus.”
It comes after Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street briefing on Monday that the UK must be prepared for a second wave of coronavirus in autumn and winter.
He warned it is not yet known if the virus has the same "seasonality" as the flu.
Prof Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, said only once there was a vaccine that is "really capable of suppressing disease levels" will the country be "out of this".
“Maybe people are just hoping and praying that this virus will just go away, as indeed I hope and pray it will,” he said.
“But the reality is, until we get a vaccine, and only if we get a vaccine that is really capable of suppressing disease levels, will we ever be ‘out of this’?
“From that perspective, we may have to live, and learn to live, with this virus in the long-term. Certainly for many months to come, if not years.”
Prof Van-Tam told the briefing more information was needed on the seasonality of COVID-19 as it is a new virus which we "don't fully understand".