According to the World Health Organisation's chief scientist it could take up to five years to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. Soumya Swaminathan said that a host of factors would determine the amount of time it takes to control the crisis.
Swaminathan, in a Financial Times virtual panel discussion said, "Let's say we have a vaccine and we're able to cover the world's entire population, which may take, I don't know, three years, four years. So I would say in a four- to five-year timeframe we could be looking at controlling this."
The scientist said that vaccines appear to be the best way out now but there is no way of telling what the future holds and that the pandemic could also get worse. Swaminathan also said that if the virus mutates now then it will render all established coronavirus vaccines ineffective.
She said that the biggest challenge at this time is weighing health risks against economic reopenings. Swaminathan said that the capacity of healthcare systems must also be considered and special attention must be paid to nursing homes, sporting events and religious places.
Swaminathan dismissed the option of herd immunity pointing out that it would mean accepting a "high rate of deaths".
Peter Piot, professor of global health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine pointed out during the discussion that only smallpox has been eradicated as a human disease. He said that as a society, we would need to find a way to live with coronavirus. Piot also said that that society would have to move on from broad lockdowns to targeted approaches.