The global coronavirus outbreak is the sort of disaster whose effects will last far into the future, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.
“The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come,” Tedros told a meeting of the WHO’s emergency committee, according to remarks released by the agency.
The pandemic has killed more than 670,000 people since emerging in Wuhan, China, with more than 17 million cases diagnosed.
The United States, Brazil, Mexico, and Britain have been particularly hard hit in recent weeks by the disease COVID-19, as their governments have struggled to come up with an effective response.
Economies have been hit by lockdown restrictions introduced to restrict its spread, while many regions are fearful of a second wave.
Meanwhile, more than around 150 pharmaceutical companies are working on vaccines, although their first use cannot be expected until early 2021, the World Health Organization said last week.
Although knowledge about the new virus has advanced, many questions remained unanswered and populations remain vulnerable, Tedros said on Friday.
“Early results from serology (antibody) studies are painting a consistent picture: most of the world’s people remain susceptible to this virus, even in areas that have experienced severe outbreaks,” he said.
“Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks. Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths.”