The UK will live with the coronavirus for many years and even a vaccine is unlikely to eliminate it permanently, experts are warning.
Wellcome Trust director Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar told the House of Commons Health Committee that “things won’t get done until Christmas”.
He went on to say that humanity will live with the virus for “decades”.
It comes after the Prime Minister said last week that he hoped for a return to normalcy by Christmas.
Boris Johnson made the comments as he presented plans to ease restrictions further, including the opening of recreation centers and indoor swimming pools later this month and the prospect of mass gatherings allowed from the autumn.
But experts who testified before the all-party group of MPs said it was important to be realistic that the virus was still there.
Sir Jeremy, a member of Sage, the government’s advisory body, said the world will live with Covid-19 for “many, many years to come”.
“Things will not be done by Christmas. This infection does not go away, it is now an endemic human infection.
“Even, in fact, if we have a vaccine or very good treatments, humanity will still be living with this virus for many, many years… decades to come. “
He urged against complacency during the summer, saying the period was a “crucial phase” to avoid a second wave.
“If we have the slightest sense of complacency about ‘this is behind us’ then we will definitely have a second wave, and we could easily be in the same situation again. ”
He said it was important to further build testing capacity and invest in treatments and vaccines.
A vaccine “unlikely to have a lasting effect”
Professor Sir John Bell, from the University of Oxford, said he believes it is unlikely that Covid-19 will ever be eliminated despite positive news on Monday that trials by his university had triggered an immune response – an important step in the development of a vaccine. .
“The reality is that this pathogen is here forever, it’s not going anywhere,” he told MPs.
“Look how hard they’ve gone to eradicate, for example, polio, this eradication program has been going on for 15 years and they’re still not here.
“So it’s going to come and go, and we’re going to have winters where we put a lot of viruses back into action.
“The vaccine is unlikely to have a lasting effect that will last very long, so we’re going to have to have a continuous cycle of vaccinations, and then more illnesses, more vaccinations and more illnesses.
“So I think the idea that we’re going to eliminate it from the entire population is just not realistic. “
Chief advisor defends government record
The government’s chief medical adviser was also questioned by lawmakers.
Professor Chris Witty has been asked at length about the UK’s record so far in the fight against the coronavirus.
He defended measures to end attempts to contain the virus in March, while defending the actions of ministers accused of announcing the lockdown too late.
Crucial evidence of the scale of the outbreak and the modeling of how quickly it spread was presented to ministers on March 16.
But it was a week later that a full lockdown was announced.
Professor Witty said it was not a “huge delay” given the “enormity” of the decision.
He also stressed that other measures had been taken in the meantime, including the closure of schools.