Coronavirus will not be wiped out and is likely to become an endemic infection, an expert has said in light of Boris Johnson’s comments that there is no “credible route to a zero-Covid Britain”.
Speaking as he announced plans for England’s path out of lockdown, the Prime Minister also said any lifting of lockdown restrictions would lead to more cases and deaths.
Professor Lawrence Young, professor of molecular oncology at Warwick Medical School, said the virus cannot be contained worldwide and there has to be an acceptance that there will be some deaths.
Speaking to the PA news agency, Prof Young said: “Just worldwide, you’re not going to be able to contain this virus.
“There’s already millions of people infected, we know that it’s going to continue infecting.
“And we know that whatever restrictions that we put in place, whatever we do, with vaccinations, etc it’s not going to stop them.
“Already over 111 million people have been infected with it around the world, so it’s going to continue to infect and continue to change.
“I think that’s why it’s really quite difficult, if not impossible, to have a sort of zero Covid strategy really in this country.”
He added that realistically the only way to wipe out the virus was to get the whole world vaccinated, but that wouldn’t happen for a very long time.
Prof Young said: “So I think the general sense is, not only from those issues but also from the way the virus behaves, and the way that other viruses behave, the way that coronavirus has behaved generally, is even though we hope to be able to stop it causing severe disease, it’s very likely to become an endemic infection.
“And I think that’s what this strategy is all about. It’s accepting that actually, that’s what’s going to happen.
“And the hope is it will eventually become part and parcel of seasonal winter flus and colds that you get with or without the need for subsequent vaccinations.”
Prof Young explained it could be that the virus adapts to humans, as is being seen with the variants, and it may be that the virus becomes less harmful and does not require repeated vaccinations.
Asked if there was now an acceptance that there will always be some death from Covid-19, he said: “Yes, because we do that for other infections.
“It’s a horrible way to think about it, but why should we think about it any different from the way that people die from flu and pneumonia every year.
“What you can’t have is the number of people that have been so poorly and the pressure that puts on the NHS, aside from the obvious horrible effect of people getting poorly and dying.
“I think it’s almost a societal issue about ‘well if you’re going to learn to live with something like this, what is an acceptable level of being sick, and actually what are people prepared to live with?’.”
Prof Young said that vaccines are not 100% effective and there are always going to be many people who are vulnerable and don’t get vaccinated, and there is always going to be an underlying level of infection and illness.