She said a second wave of infection is “a very real risk” because the virus is still present in the community. So far, extreme social distancing or closures have helped reduce the spread of the disease because people were separated.
“Now by the time you start mixing again, chances are the transmission will start again – unless it drops to such a low level in a place where infection is very, very rare in the community, “she said. .
It is therefore important to have a careful and “phased” reopening of economies, she said, adding that governments must watch the behavior of the virus as more and more people mix.
“What we have said over and over again is that we cannot be complacent, this virus is a nasty virus and what it needs is for people to be in close contact,” said Swaminathan. “So, especially in many countries around the world, where it is impossible to have physical distance, it is really important that people stay alert. ”
In addition, those who are more vulnerable – such as the elderly, people with weak immune systems, and those with underlying diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure – are likely to get sicker if they are infected with the virus, she said.
The most sensitive people should exercise extra caution when taking precautions, including not going to crowded areas, wearing a medical mask every time they go out and making sure their illnesses are under control. -jacent are “under control,” she said.
According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, more than 7 million people worldwide are infected with Covid-19, which has killed more than 400,000 people worldwide.
Confusion over asymptomatic cases
Asymptomatic cases of transmission cannot be completely excluded, even if they do not seem to be the ones that spread the disease most aggressively, according to the scientist.
Referring to studies on transmissions within households and in the community, Swaminathan said: “Although we do know that there are a number of infected people in the community – who are either completely asymptomatic or have symptoms very mild – they don’t seem to be the ones spreading the infection. ”
People who have a positive asymptomatic test for Covid-19 but have no symptoms of the disease.
The United Nations health agency initially said on Monday that cases of asymptomatic people spreading the coronavirus were “very rare”. However, WHO later retracted its comments, saying that much about the asymptomatic spread was still unknown.
Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO emergency program, said Tuesday evening that if asymptomatic spread of the virus occurs, the proportion of asymptomatic individuals who transmit the virus to others remains a “big question” opened “.
Likewise, Swaminathan told CNBC that “asymptomatic people are generally less likely to transmit, but this cannot be completely ruled out.”
Until an effective and safe vaccine emerges, it would be necessary to live with and manage this virus for “the next two years,” she said.
Despite many vaccines currently in development, we would be “very fortunate” to have the results of the trials by the end of this year, and a vaccine available early next year, he said. she noted.
After that, it would take another year or two for mass production of billions of doses of vaccine in order to inoculate enough of the world’s population to achieve collective immunity, she said.
Collective immunity refers to the situation in which enough people in a population have become immune to a disease, so that it effectively prevents the spread of the disease.
Swaminathan previously warned that it could take up to four or five years to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.