In a disturbing sign that the coronavirus cannot be done by wiping out the nations that are starting to come out of the lockdown, recent studies in Spain and France indicate that only a small fraction of the population in these countries had been infected with the virus.
Meanwhile, in China, where the epidemic started late last year, health officials have said they will step up detection and investigation of COVID-19 to prevent a rebound in cases.
In France, where 16,642 people have died to date from coronavirus, according to an NBC News count, a study by the Institut Pasteur revealed that only 4.4% of the population – or 2.8 million people – had been infected with the virus. The figure has dropped from 9 to 10 percent in hard-hit regions like Paris, according to research released Wednesday.
The report is well below the 65 percent of the population that, according to many experts, is necessary to achieve the so-called “collective immunity” and control the pandemic, according to the report.
Collective immunity is the time when enough people in a population are immunized against an infection to be able to effectively prevent the spread of the disease.
“Our results show that without a vaccine, collective immunity alone will not be enough to prevent a second wave at the end of the lockdown. Effective control measures must therefore be maintained after May 11, ”said French researchers.
A Spanish national study on antibodies, also published Wednesday, showed similar results, finding that only about 5% of the country’s population had contracted the virus. Again, indicating that there was no collective immunity, the country gradually lifted its lock.
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Such antibody or “seroprevalence” tests could help governments assess the true extent of the epidemic in their countries, taking into account all those who may be immune or resistant to the coronavirus.
In China, health officials also said they would step up testing in the city of Wuhan, where the epidemic started in late 2019. Public video surveillance broadcasting images of citizens tested on Thursday and said officials would filter out city residents for 10 days.
New consolidations have also been reported in Jilin and Liaoning, raising new concerns for Beijing.
National Health Commission spokeswoman Song Shuli told reporters on Thursday that the country must prevent a rebound in the infection, which has so far killed 4,633 people, by stepping up screening and testing .
China has not maintained a sequence of new deaths from coronavirus for about 17 days, but is closely monitoring asymptotic cases, where infected people do not show any symptoms but are nonetheless carriers and can spread the deadly virus.
Song said that in the past 10 days, the number of asymptomatic infections under medical observation has decreased by 22%.
But the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that COVID-19 may never go away and could become endemic like HIV.
“It is important to put this on the table: this virus may just become another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” said Mike Ryan, WHO emergency specialist. online briefing.
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Meanwhile, health officials in the UK have raised hopes after saying they are in talks with Swiss drug maker Roche over the possible deployment of a ‘game changer’ antibody test. Which could restart the country.
A public health laboratory in England has concluded that the antibody test has a specificity of 100%, which means that it can detect antibodies to the exact disease rather than similar antibodies.
“It could be a game-changer,” said Edward Argar, British Minister of Health.
“We are now going as quickly as possible to talk to Roche about their purchase, but I cannot give you an exact date by which we can start deploying them.” “
The Roche test also received support from the European Union on April 28 and emergency clearance from the United States Food and Drug Administration on May 2.
Although antibody tests show who has been infected, scientists around the world warn that it is not yet clear whether this amounts to permanent immunity.
Reuters contributed to this report.