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WHO expects COVID-19 pandemic to be brought under control within two years

Friday, September 11, marks six months since the novel coronavirus outbreak was officially declared a pandemic

GENEVA, September 11. /TASS/. The World Health Organization (WHO) does not know when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over, but assumes that the disease would be brought under control within two years, the WHO press office told TASS.

Friday, September 11, marks six months since the novel coronavirus outbreak was officially declared a pandemic. The WHO defines the pandemic as "the worldwide spread of a new disease." At the early stages of the outbreak, until March 11, the WHO viewed the novel coronavirus situation as an epidemic with multiple hotspots. At the same time, back on January 30, the WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern over the outbreak, which is the organization’s highest alert level. The alert is still in place.

"At this point in time, we do not know when the pandemic will come to an end, but it is possible that with global efforts and modern technology, the pandemic could be brought under control within a couple of years," the WHO press office said, adding that countries should "focus on 4 priorities: prevent amplifying events, empower people to protect themselves, focus on public health basics, and protect the vulnerable, including older people and those with underlying conditions."


Coronavirus transmissibility remains unchanged

The World Health Organization believes that six months after the pandemic was declared, the novel coronavirus has not become less or more contagious.

"Human viruses can evolve, becoming less or more pathogenic. Based on the current evidence from over 80 000 genomic sequences made available publicly, the transmissibility and severity of COVID-19 haven’t changed," the WHO press office said, answering to a question from TASS.

The reproduction number of COVID-19 (which measures the transmissibility) is naturally above 2 in the absence of control measures, "which means it has an epidemic potential to take off if we allow it to," the organization said.

"We are constantly monitoring the virus for any significant changes," it said. "While SARS-CoV2 is still a new virus, we already know a lot and we can use that information to mount an effective response."


Russia’s contribution into global effort

When asked about Russian contribution into the fight against the pandemic, the WHO press office replied that "WHO welcomes all vaccine development programmes around the world."

"We are very encouraged by the fact that over 30 candidate vaccines are now in various stages of clinical trial, including the Russian vaccine Sputnik V," it said.

Earlier, the global organization published a list of criteria that a vaccine should meet, which includes, among other factors, a certain degree of safety and a minimum of 50% efficacy in preventing infection with a lower bound of at least 30% protection at the population level.

"We have started discussion with Russian authorities to learn more about the vaccine candidate. Sputnik V is about to start phase III clinical trials, as we understand. Additionally; each country is sovereign and has the right to choose the tools and products that it considers to be best suited for its population. However, this choice must be guided by the highest standards of science and ethics," the organization’s press service said.

"WHO has guidance around the exceptional authorization of vaccines and other products in the context of emergencies. Even if countries authorize emergency use of a vaccine, they must collect detailed efficacy and safety data following the immunization," it said.

On August 11, Russia was reported to have become the first country in the world to register a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, named Sputnik V. The inoculation was developed by the Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Russian Healthcare Ministry and passed clinical trials in June and July. It is based on a platform that was widely used for the development of other vaccines in the past. According to the Russian health ministry, the previous experience of using vaccines of this type shows that they can provide immunity for a period of up to two years.

In late December 2019, Chinese officials informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus - named COVID-19 by the WHO - have been reported in every corner of the globe, including Russia.

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. According to the latest statistics, over 27.8 mln people have been infected worldwide and more than 903,000 deaths have been reported.