WHO warns virus may be here to stay as toll nears 300,000

GENEVA (AFP) – The coronavirus may never go away and populations will have to learn to live with it just as they have HIV, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, as the global death toll from the disease nears 300,000.

There were also gloomy forecasts from the United States (US) Federal Reserve, which said prolonged shutdowns to stem the spread of the virus could cause lasting economic damage in America.

Washington ratcheted up tensions over the pandemic by accusing China of trying to steal research into a vaccine, while US President Donald Trump upped the rhetoric with a colourful phrase that could anger Beijing.

“We just made a great trade deal, the ink was barely dry, and the world was hit by the plague from China. 100 trade deals wouldn’t make up the difference – and all those innocent lives lost!” Trump tweeted.

The US logged more than 1,800 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the nation’s total to 84,059.

A vaccine could allow countries and economies to fully re-open from lockdowns and potentially earn millions of dollars for its creators.

But the WHO said the virus may never be wiped out entirely.

“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away,” said the global health body’s Emergencies Director in Geneva Michael Ryan.

“HIV has not gone away – but we have come to terms with the virus.”

The prospect of the disease hanging around leaves governments across the world facing a delicate balancing act between suppressing the pathogen and getting economies up and running.

Trump has been pushing for a swift resumption of economic activity in the US, often against the advice of health officials, as he tries to jumpstart the world’s largest economy before a November election.

Top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci has said re-opening too soon risks triggering uncontrollable outbreaks, but the president on Wednesday dismissed that call for caution as “not acceptable”.

In an excerpt of an interview with Fox Business to air in full, Trump said, “I totally disagree with him on schools.”