The coronavirus epidemic, which has affected more than 185,000 people and killed more than 7,800, will not end until a cheap and effective antiviral or vaccine becomes available, Hong Kong’s leading microbiologist told the South China Morning Post.
“We think the epidemic will probably not come to an end,” Professor Yuen Kwok-yung said in a pre-recorded television interview aired on Sunday. “There will be what we call reversed imported cases. In the beginning, other countries feared us, now we fear them [for bringing in the virus].”
A vaccine likely won’t be produced until 2021, according to several reports.
The outbreak has forced lockdowns of major cities and hit the stock market especially hard, with several economists saying a recession has already started.
The rapidly spreading virus will likely strain America’s health care system, though many in the U.S. have not been tested because there aren’t enough tests available.
Greg Gray, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at Duke University, told Healthline that warmer weather could play a role in reducing COVID-19.
“During warmer weather, people often congregate less inside of closed buildings. Buildings often have more air circulation, and there is often an increase in UV light from sunshine, all of which may help reduce viral transmission,” he said Tuesday.
Still, the virus could return when the colder weather comes back.
Yuen said the key to fighting epidemics starts with personal hygiene.
“If everyone washes his or her hand, wears a mask all the time and maintains social distancing, the risk of infection will be lowered. It’s a matter of compliance,” he said.
“We cannot guard against the virus forever, but the longer we delay its spread, the higher the chances of getting a vaccine in time.”