COVID-19 Pandemic Severe, but 'Not Necessarily the Big One': WHO

COVID-19 Pandemic Severe, but 'Not Necessarily the Big One': WHO
WHO Health Emergencies Program head Michael Ryan attends a press conference amid the COVID-19 outbreak, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on July 3, 2020. (Fabrice Coffrini/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that while the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic has been severe, it is “not necessarily the big one,” and that the world must learn to live with COVID-19.

Experts with the United Nations agency said Monday that the ongoing pandemic is a “wake-up call,” and that the world should get “serious” about potentially worse pandemics in the future.

"This pandemic has been very severe," WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan told reporters at a press briefing. "It has spread around the world extremely quickly and it has affected every corner of this planet, but this is not necessarily the big one.”

Ryan highlighted that while the CCP virus is "very transmissible, and it kills people... its current case fatality [rate] is reasonably low in comparison to other emerging diseases,” without elaborating on the specific diseases.

"We need to get ready for something that may even be more severe in the future,” he added.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus, has killed nearly 1.8 million people across the globe and infected some 80 million, since it first emerged in Wuhan, China, last year.

Senior adviser to the WHO Bruce Aylward, meanwhile, warned that although huge progress has been made in handling the pandemic, including the swift production of vaccines, the world is not yet prepared to battle future pandemics.

"We are into second and third waves of this virus and we are still not prepared to deal with and manage those," Aylward cautioned. "So while we are better prepared... we are not fully prepared for this one, let alone the next one.”

Bill Gates speaks during All In WA: A Concert For COVID-19 Relief in Washington on June 24, 2020. (Getty Images/Getty Images for All In WA)
Bill Gates speaks during All In WA: A Concert For COVID-19 Relief in Washington on June 24, 2020. (Getty Images/Getty Images for All In WA)

The experts’ remarks echo comments from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in June. He warned at the time that the CCP virus pandemic “will not be the last pandemic that we face,” and that the world must “prepare for the next one.”

WHO experts also cautioned Monday that the rolling out of COVID-19 vaccinations globally is no guarantee that the virus will soon be eradicated.

“The existence of a vaccine, even at high efficacy, there’s no guarantee of eliminating or eradicating an infectious disease, that is a very high bar for us to get over,” Ryan said.

Professor David Heymann, the chair of the WHO’s strategic and technical advisory group for infectious hazards, told the briefing that the “destiny” of the CCP virus is to become endemic.

“The world has hoped for herd immunity, that somehow transmission would be decreased if enough persons were immune,” he said. “It appears the destiny of SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] is to become endemic, as have four other human coronaviruses, and that it will continue to mutate as it reproduces in human cells, especially in areas of more intense admission.”

Herd immunity refers to when a population becomes immune to an infectious disease. Doctors say it will eventually be reached for all populations, and can be assisted by, but is not dependent upon, a vaccine.

Heymann added that certain “tools to save lives” alongside good public health will “permit us to learn to live with COVID-19.”

“Threats will continue,” Ryan told reporters. “If there is one thing we need to take from this pandemic, with all of the tragedy and loss, is we need to get our act together. We need to honor those we’ve lost by getting better at what we do every day.”

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