Coronavirus will keep spreading 'until it hits 60-70%' of population, warns expert

Infectious disease expert Dr Michael Osterholm also said that the situation in the US will worsen in the fall when the country has to face the flu and Covid-19


                            Coronavirus will keep spreading 'until it hits 60-70%' of population, warns expert
(Getty Images)

The novel coronavirus may not stop until it infects 60-70 percent of the world's population, warns an infectious disease expert.

According to Dr Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, this scenario will most likely play out because we do not yet have a magic bullet to stop the new coronavirus.

The world will have to find ways to adapt and to live with a virus that is not going to disappear. "We are going to be living with it. And we are not having that discussion at all," Osterholm told USA TODAY.

Because of this, easing stay-at-home orders, without putting most Americans at risk, is difficult. More than half of US states have already begun reopening even as experts have sounded the alarm on its consequences.

Recently, Dr Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert, testified remotely before the US Senate Health Committee, saying that states could see "needless suffering and death" if they ignore checkpoints in administration guidelines for reopening the country.

More than half of US states have already begun reopening (Getty Images)

Osterholm fears that the situation in the US will worsen in the fall when the country has to face the flu and Covid-19. The resulting spike in the number of cases could overwhelm hospitals, he said.  So far, the virus has infected as many as 1.36 million Americans and killed more than 82,000 people in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Some Asian countries that have already beaten the virus are not safe too. They are susceptible to the second wave of infections, Osterholm cautioned. China and South Korea are already seeing new cases emerge after a drop.

"This damn virus is going to keep going until it infects everybody it possibly can. It surely won’t slow down until it hits 60 to 70%" of the population," Osterholm said.

"It is the big peak that is going to do us in. As much pain, suffering, death, and economic disruption we have had, there has been 5 to 20% of the people infected, ... That is a long way to get to 60 to 70%," he added.

All hopes on vaccines 

Vaccines can help countries gain an edge over the virus and slow it down. The Trump administration is aiming to have a vaccine ready by the end of the year.  Many experts are hopeful about having one in 18 months.

"My best-case scenario is that we will see four or five of the vaccines run through very effective, well-designed trials in the course of the coming months," US National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, told Business Insider. He added that by fall, we might have at least one or more of those that have been granted emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

However, there is one problem. Even if a safe and effective vaccine is developed, experts are unsure if they can provide long-lasting immunity against the new coronavirus.

Thinking about the uncertainties around vaccine development and the ambitious timeline, Collins added: "The hair stands up on the back of my neck."

For more information and statistics on the coronavirus pandemic, click on the Newsbreak tracker here