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Coronavirus: US could battle pandemic for two years, study warns as cases soar

Diseases experts warn that coronavirus could be around for longer than some expect, whilst suggesting two thirds of people may need to catch it before the pandemic ends 

Gino Spocchia
Friday 01 May 2020 16:21 BST
Top US diseases expert warns the Covid-19 pandemic could last two years

Experts in the United States have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could last as long as two years in a worst-case scenario.

The paper, published on Thursday, said the spread of Covid-19 had created “the worst global public health crisis in over 100 years” as it warned that the pandemic could continue beyond current forecasts.

Citing how the virus can spread from people who do not present symptoms – or are asymptomatic – the study warns that coronavirus will be harder to control in comparison to past pandemics.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, who published the report on Thursday, said Americans should expect the pandemic to continue until about two-thirds of the world’s population is immune.

The report’s lead author, CIDRAP director Michael Osterholm, told MSNBC News on Thursday that the US would see “many more infections” before a possible second wave hits.

“There’s no question we’re going to see many many more infections,” said Osterholm. “Today probably five to fifteen per cent of the United States – depending on where you’re at – have been infected by this virus, and that’s not very many considering what we’ve been through”.

Echoing the report’s conclusions, the CIDRAP director said that transmission of the virus between Americans would not stop until almost 70 per cent of the population had contracted the disease.

Osterholm, who made reference to the contested concept of “herd-immunity”, added on Thursday that it was not clear not clear how the US would get to that point.

As governments around the world assess how to end lockdown measures in the coming weeks and months, two scenarios presented in the CIDRAP study suggested that social distancing would need to continue.

Two possible scenarios based on past pandemics suggest that Covid-19 will continue to spread in either a series of small waves of infection, or one larger wave later this year that would likely overwhelm health services.

The report added that “The occurrence of these waves may vary geographically and may depend on what mitigation measures are in place and how they are eased”.

In the long term, the report recommended that authorities needed to prepare for the worst case scenario whilst continuing to develop messaging and mitigation measures whilst sourcing protection equipment for healthcare workers.

President Donald Trump, who has supported demonstrations against his own social distancing guidelines, said last month that herd-immunity was a "catastrophic" idea.

"If you remember, they were looking at that concept - I guess it's a concept if you don't mind death, a lot of death - but they were looking at that in the UK, remember," Trump said.

This week the number of confirmed cases of the virus in the US passed the one million mark, with more than 60,000 deaths.

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