Jonathan Van-Tam Says Coronavirus Will Be "With Humankind Forever" Despite The Vaccine Breakthrough
England's Deputy Medical Officer has said be believes it's unlikely that coronavirus will ever be fully eradicated, but could become a seasonal disease like the flu.
People could continue to use face maks and hand sanitiser for "many years" to prevent the spread of coronavirus, rather than see it completely eradicated.
The warning comes after the UK became the first country in the world to approve a clinical vaccine for coronavirus, with the UK's medicines regulator giving the green light to the Pfizer/BioNTech jab to be rolled out from next week.
But speaking at the Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, Professor Van-Tam claimed countries would "learn to live with" the virus, with new vaccine developments drastically reducing the amount of deaths and hospitalisations caused by coronavirus.
"I don't think we are going to eradicate coronavirus ever," he said.
"I think it is going to be with humankind forever. Secondly, I think we may get to a point where coronavirus becomes a seasonal problem. I don't want to draw too many parallels with flu, but that is possibly the kind of way we will learn to live with it.
"And the third point is do I think there will come a big moment where we kind of have a massive party and throw our masks and hand sanitiser and say: 'That's it, it is behind us,' like the end of the war? No I don't.
"I think those kind of habits that we have learnt from that clearly stop the spread of other respiratory viruses, such as flu, will perhaps persist for many years. That may be a good thing if they do."
Boris Johnson took a more optimistic tone, however, adding that he had "high hopes" the vaccine would make a "significant difference" in returning life back to normal.
There is growing anger among Conservative MPs over the government's decision to impose new tiering restrictions on England following a period of national lockdown, with more than 50 Tories rebelling against the measures during a Commons vote on Tuesday evening.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson, who had promised MPs in a letter earlier this week that the restrictions would have a February "sunset clause", said during the press conference that any future decisions would be taken on the "basis of the data".
The PM refused to rule out the possibility of extending tier restrictions into the spring after a further vote in January. He added: "for the time being, you've got to take it that tiering is going to be a very, very important part of our campaign against coronavirus.
"It is absolutely vital that people continue to stick to the guidance and follow the rules, that is really crucial."
And he insisted that the vaccine would make "absolutely no difference" on decisions around lockdown measures until a substantial number of people had already been given the jab.
"We have got to focus on keeping the virus under control, getting it down, tough tiering, mass community testing as I have described.
"But clearly as we go on in the next weeks and months, and hopefully we are able to use testing and the vaccine to drive it down.
"I suppose there will come a moment when the graph of immunised, vaccinated, innoculated people is going up one way, then there will come a moment when we can obviously relax the non-pharmaceutical interventions...just as we hope community testing will allow areas to come down the tiering scales."
He added: "But we are not there yet, and I've got to stress that. This is theoretical. We have got to wait and see how fast we can vaccinate people. It is weeks, months of work to go before we are in that situation. But thank goodness we now have a vaccine to work with."
Meanwhile, Professer Van-Tam said people would "have to take the vaccine" if they wanted to see an end to lockdown restrictions.
"Everyone wants social distancing to come to an end — we are fed-up with it," he said.
"Nobody wants lockdowns and to see the damage they do. But if you want that dream to come true as quickly as it can come true, then you you have to take the vaccine when it is offered to you.
"Low uptake will almost certainly make restrictions last longer."
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