COVID-19 will most likely be around for “decades” to come, Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies member and director of the Wellcome Trust Jeremy Farrar told the United Kingdom’s members of parliament on Tuesday.
“Things will not be done by Christmas," said Farrar, while addressing the House of Commons health and social care committee. “Even actually if we have a vaccine or a very good treatment, humanity will still be living with the virus for many, many years to come.”
This was in contrast to what the United Kingdom’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced last Friday, claiming that the entire country would be planning for a “significant return to normality” by Christmas.
“It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas,” Johnson said.
Oxford University’s regius professor of medicine, John Bell, told Politico that the “reality is that this virus will be with us forever. It is going to come and go.”
The U.K., one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, has been slowly re-opening, while also imposing new accompanying social distancing measures, such as mandating masks in stores and on public transport — but not in offices.
With a death toll of 45,507 as of July 21, according to Johns Hopkins data, the U.K. has the most COVID-19 deaths in Europe and one of the highest tolls globally. The U.K. was one of the countries to enforce some of the harshest lockdown measures in response to the virus.
Scientists at Oxford University announced this week that an experimental coronavirus vaccine has shown great promise in helping prompt a protective immune response in hundreds of people who got the shot.
Scientists said that they found their experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55 that lasted at least two months after they were immunized, according to research published in The Lancet.
“We are seeing good immune response in almost everybody,” said Dr. Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University. “What this vaccine does particularly well is trigger both arms of the immune system,” he said.
Hill said the vaccine is designed to reduce disease and transmission. It uses a harmless virus — a chimpanzee cold virus, engineered so it can’t spread — to carry the coronavirus’ spike protein into the body, which should trigger an immune response.
“This has been done before in 19 different infectious diseases to develop vaccines and drugs and is likely to happen for COVID-19 as well,” he said.
The Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this report.