Pandemic-related lockdowns are no longer practical, according to the UK’s largest charitable foundation focused on health research, which has called for moving toward treating COVID-19 “like the common cold.”
“I don’t think it can mean going back into regular lockdowns, because it is just not economically viable. We don’t do that for the flu, we don’t do that for the common cold,” Nick Moakes, chief investment officer of Wellcome Trust, told The Telegraph.
Moakes said it was time that society shifted to living with the novel coronavirus.
“The best-case end game is where it is treated like the common cold, like flu. And on an annual basis, those that are vulnerable get a jab against it—and the rest of us have built up a degree of immunity that protects us sufficiently. And we do live with it,” he said.
Based in London, Wellcome Trust is one of the largest providers of nongovernmental funding for scientific research in the world. Wellcome was founded in 1936 by Henry Wellcome with funds from his medical business, which went on to become GlaxoSmithKline.
Wellcome Trust was an early investor in food delivery company DoorDash and profited from its initial public offering at the end of 2020. The trust currently has an investment portfolio of 38.2 billion pounds ($52.4 billion). Wellcome was one of the institutions that funded research into developing the COVID-19 vaccine by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
With the expansion of its portfolio, Wellcome plans to invest 16 billion pounds ($22 billion)—the most in its history—toward research on funding next-generation COVID-19 vaccines over the next decade, according to an update from the nonprofit on Jan. 11. It contributed $1.65 billion during the past year to research grants and other charitable activities.
European countries are at a split on how to proceed regarding the coronavirus. While some maintain that China-like strict shutdown procedures and mandatory vaccines are the only way to move forward, others have diverted to a more lenient path.
When the UK decided against imposing tighter restrictions, German Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach said, “From my point of view, it’s an unethical bet.”
Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said, “We have to evaluate the evolution of COVID from pandemic to an endemic illness.”
Moakes said the priority was to get vaccines to countries with lower percentages of inoculations, and that a situation where the population is completely rid of the virus isn’t realistic.
“Particularly with Omicron, zero-COVID is not a realistic aspiration. Very few countries in the world are pursuing a zero-COVID policy,” he said, according to The Telegraph.
Dr. Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling and a University of Warwick professor, has forecast COVID-19 evolving to become less severe and toward being endemic. He said the highly transmissible but milder Omicron variant is the beginning of that process.