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It would take five years to control the COVID-19 pandemic: WHO's chief scientists warns

The coronavirus pandemic may continue into the latter half of the decade, a senior global health official has warned, as the death toll of the virus approaches the grim milestone of 300,000.

“I would say in a four to five-year timeframe, we could be looking at controlling this,” Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief scientist, told the Financial Times’ Global Boardroom webinar on Wednesday:

Swaminathan said a vaccine appeared to be the “best way out” at present but warned there were lots of “ifs and buts” about its safety, production and equitable distribution.

The development of an effective vaccine and successful confinement measures were both among the factors that would ultimately determine the pandemic’s duration, she added.

COVID-19 here to stay forever?

At a separate media briefing, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said at the organization’s Geneva headquarters on Wednesday that the coronavirus “may never go away.”

When asked to address Swaminathan’s comments earlier in the day, Ryan said no one would be able to accurately predict when the disease might disappear.

He added that trying to control the virus would require a “massive effort,” even if a vaccine is found.

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