The World Health Organization’s special envoy on COVID-19 said Monday there’s an “end in sight” to the pandemic — but warned of a “difficult” three months ahead with the spread of the Omicron variant.
“I’m afraid we are moving through the marathon but there’s no actual way to say that we’re at the end – we can see the end in sight, but we’re not there. And there’s going to be some bumps before we get there,” Dr. David Nabarro told Sky News.
Nabarro said that new variants could play a role in upcoming waves, putting more strain on already overwhelmed health systems.
“First of all, this virus is continuing to evolve – we have Omicron but we’ll get more variants,” he said.
“Secondly, it really is affecting the whole world. And, [while] health services in western Europe are just about coping, in many other parts of the world they are completely overwhelmed,” Nabarro continued.
“And thirdly, it’s really clear that there’s no scope for major restrictions in any country, particularly poor countries. People have just got to keep working and so there are some very tough choices for politicians right now,” he said.
“It’s going to be difficult for the next three months at least,” Nabarro added.
Experts have started to look ahead to when the virus will become endemic like influenza, which is constantly circulating but not a major concern.
Asked about the possibility of surges of the deadly bug two or three times a year, he said that “the way this virus is behaving, and has behaved really since we first met it, is that it builds up and then surges quite dramatically, and then it comes down again, and then surges again about every three or four months.
“It’s difficult to use past behavior to predict the future. And I don’t like doing that too much, but I would agree that the pattern, I think, that is going to happen with this virus is continued surges, and living with COVID means being able to prepare for these surges and to react and really quickly when they occur,” Nabarro told the news outlet.
“Life can go on, we can get the economy going again in many countries, but we just have to be really respectful of the virus and that means having really good plans in place for dealing with the surges,” he added.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US surpassed 60 million as of Monday morning, with over 837,000 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.
The number of cases globally was over 307 million and nearly 5.5 million deaths.