You are more likely to win the lottery than escape Covid-19 infection, warns WHO expert

Jordan Kelly-Linden
·3-min read
Two women wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus stand at a bus stop in Moscow - YURI KADOBNOV / AFP
Two women wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus stand at a bus stop in Moscow - YURI KADOBNOV / AFP

Those hoping that luck alone will protect them from being infected with the novel coronavirus were issued a stark reminder from a leading expert at the World Health Organization on Wednesday.

Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, told the public that you are statistically more likely to win the lottery than escape an infection of Covid-19.

Speaking at a live Q&A broadcasted over social media, Dr Ryan said: “If we don't find a vaccine and we don't continue suppressing this virus, and we assume this virus spreads to 60 or 70 per cent of the population in the world, that is effectively one in 200 [infected with Covid-19] on this planet.”

“From that perspective, think of your chances of winning the lottery,” he added.

Watch: What are the complications linked to the coronavirus?

The notion follows comments by Dr Maria van Kerkhove, during the same broadcast, regarding the worrying rise in coronavirus infections across Europe and other regions.

The WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19 warned that the world is “seeing increases in hospitalisations, in intensive care units, particularly in Spain, France, Montenegro, Ukraine and some states of the United States.”

“That is worrying because we have not seen the flu season yet," she said.

You can't take this virus for granted, especially coming into winter, insisted Dr Ryan.

“It is still a vicious virus,” he said. “We're still losing 5,000 people a day from confirmed Covid deaths. That doesn't count people who may die because they were never tested, it may not count all the other causes of death because health services were interrupted.”

Even with so-called ‘mild’ infections, “we simply do not know what the long term impact of this,” he stressed. Not everyone, even young people, have a complete recovery from this virus.

“We don't have the answers for everything. We're working very hard to share what we know, what we don't know,” agreed Dr Kerkhove.

However, "one thing we are looking at is not just the number of deaths from reported cases, but what is the estimated number of deaths from the infections? That estimate is 0.6 per cent,” she said.

“That may not sound like a lot, but if you think of a virus that has the potential to spread widely... that's a pretty high number. And that infection per cent increases dramatically by age.”

“This is a significant issue,” said Dr Ryan as he reissued his stark reminder: “These numbers sound really small until you calculate that up for all of us and see what the impact has.”

Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security