The public should expect the coronavirus to linger until a vaccine is developed, and the virus is likely to “[stalk] the human race for quite a long time to come,” a public health expert with the World Health Organization said Sunday.
“There will be small outbreaks that will emerge sporadically and they will break through our defenses,” WHO Special Envoy David Nabarro, whose past work includes overseeing Ebola outbreak response in West Africa, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
He said it probably won’t be like influenza, which comes in “waves.”
Communities implementing “a kind of defensive shield” ― which would involve detecting and isolating cases the moment they appear to prevent outbreaks from developing ― will be key, Nabarro said.
“It’s going to be necessary for every single country to have that capacity,” he said. “So we are actually encouraging countries to put that in place now and that will facilitate releasing lockdowns and prevent further massive outbreaks.”
President Donald Trump, who has been outspoken about his desire to get the U.S. economy up and running again, said Friday that he is “looking at a date” to ease social restrictions. He said he doesn’t believe there should be a national testing system in place first.
“Vast areas of our country don’t need this,” he said during a White House press briefing, referring to coronavirus testing. “We want to have it and we’re going to see if we have it. Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday warned against countries being too hasty in lifting stay-at-home restrictions, saying that doing so could “lead to a deadly resurgence.”
“The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly,” he said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, echoed that warning.
“When we decide at a proper time when we’re going to be relaxing some of the restrictions, there’s no doubt you’re going to see cases,” he said Friday at the White House press briefing. “The question is how do you respond to them.”
Google and Apple have announced that they are teaming up to develop technology that would help track cases by alerting users if they have potentially been exposed to someone that has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The software, expected to become available in mid-May, would require users to voluntarily share their health status, though their identity would not be shared.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has said it is also assisting government agencies in the U.S. to create a home testing system for the virus, with the goal of alleviating pressure on health care systems while encouraging people to stay home and practice social distancing.
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