The Slatest

WHO Envoy Warns Coronavirus “Will Stalk the Human Race for a Long Time to Come”

David Nabarro touches his hand to his head
David Nabarro in Geneva on Jan. 26, 2017. Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images

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David Nabarro, a special envoy to the World Health Organization on COVID-19, warned Sunday that anyone who thinks the coronavirus crisis will be over anytime soon should think again. The general thinking for now is that it will be a “virus that stalks the human race for quite a long time” and true relief will only come once a vaccine Is developed, Nabarro said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

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Experts aren’t sure the coronavirus will act like influenza, which comes in “waves.” Instead, until a vaccine can be developed, “there will be small outbreaks that will emerge sporadically, and they will break through our defenses,” Nabarro said. That means countries will need to stay vigilant to detect any potential new cases and act quickly in order to prevent an outbreak. “So the key for this particular virus is that every community, as a kind of defensive shield, can pick up cases as soon as they appear, isolate them, and stop outbreaks from developing,” he added. “It’s going to be necessary for every single country to have that capacity.”

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Even though Nabarro was partly optimistic, pointing to figures that suggest the rate of new infections is slowing in the United States and Europe, he warned the virus was still advancing in other parts of the world. He also responded to President Donald Trump’s recent criticism of the WHO, which was accompanied by a threat of a funding freeze, by saying there will be time to examine the response in the future, but right now the world needs to focus on combating the epidemic. “We’re right in the middle of this massive, epic struggle,” he said. “Every single human being in the world is affected by it—businesses are really in trouble, communities are in distress. I really do hope that all nations will not find any reason to make threats or other such things that will undermine our capacity to bring together all the best knowledge that we can find.”

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Nabarro spoke on a day in which the global death toll of the coronavirus passed the 113,000 mark, including more than 21,733 people in the United States. Despite the dire numbers, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn was optimistic and said the United States is close to its peak. “The models do show that we are very close to the peak. So I think that information is accurate,” Hahn said. “This has been a really fast-moving outbreak, so we really have to take this day by day.”

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