THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic “is very severe but not necessarily the big one”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.
Dr Mark Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies programme, said that “even more severe” could be on the horizon and Covid-19 is a “wake up call”.
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His comments came as NHS boss Sir Simon Stevens warned that Brits were in “the eye of the storm” as England’s hospitals deal with more Covid patients than during peak of the first wave in April.
Speaking during an online WHO briefing today, Dr Ryan warned that other emerging diseases could be more dangerous than Covid.
Before discussing other risks, he cautioned that what he had to say would “come as a shock to some people”.
He said: “This pandemic has been very severe, it has spread around the world extremely quickly and has affected every corner of this planet – but this is not necessarily the big one.
“This virus is very transmissible and it kills people and it has deprived so many people of loved ones but its current case fatality is reasonably low compared to other emerging diseases.
“This is a wake up call, we are learning now how to do things better.
“How to do science better, how to do logistics better, how to do training better, how to do governance better, how to communicate better.”
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He said that the WHO had developed new new infodemiology and advanced behavioural science to deal with the pandemic – but highlighted that the society we live in is “increasingly complex and fragile.”
Dr Ryan added: “These threats will continue, if there is one thing we need to take from this pandemic, from all the tragedy and loss, is that we need to get our act together.
“We need to get ready for something that may be even more severe in the future.”
He added that we should “honour the people we have lost by getting better at the things we do every day”.
Two new variants of the coronavirus have recently been identified – one in South East England and another in South Africa.
Scientists are still working to find out the severity of the new variants and there have been concerns that current Covid vaccine might not work.
Experts have said that there is not yet any evidence that states that the new vaccines wont work.
But Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said that the prevalence of the new variants should be a “wake up call”.
She said the variants can already be controlled with the measures already in place, but said that they needed to be adhered to in order to work.
Dr Van Kerkhove said: “You’ve heard everyone here say that these mutations will continue to happen. We need even more resolve.
“I know everyone is tired and fed up with this and wants this to be over.
“But this should push us even further, to have even more resolved to end this pandemic.
“Vaccines are coming online. This is an incredibly powerful tool. We cannot lose this battle now.
“We are all in this together and we need to reduce transmission everywhere we can.”
The warnings from the WHO comes as Covid infections in the UK hit a record high, with 41,385 lab-confirmed cases recorded yesterday.
A further 357 deaths were reported — up 66 per cent on the previous Monday’s total of 215.
Sir Simon said: “We are back in the eye of the storm with a second wave of coronavirus sweeping Europe and, indeed, this country.
“We think by late spring, with vaccine supplies continuing to come on stream, we will have been able to offer all vulnerable people across this country Covid vaccination.
“That perhaps provides the biggest chink of hope for the year ahead.”