“Surges of illness” caused by COVID-19 are going to continue for “months and perhaps even years to come”, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) special envoy for the disease has warned.
Speaking to Kay Burley, Dr David Nabarro said “the pandemic is very much with us all over the world right now”, and those who have not been vaccinated will be particularly affected by spikes in illness.
With government data showing the UK is recording more than 30,000 COVID-19 cases a day, Dr Nabarro warned that the “virus has not gone away” and is “continuing to mutate”.
“It’s capable probably of causing all sorts of future problems”, he said.
He appeared on Sky News following the release of a highly critical report by MPs that found thousands of lives have been lost due to delays and mistakes by both government ministers and scientific advisers.
Dr Nabarro described the report as a “cold hard look” at what happened, saying it is “very useful”, but the WHO does not think it’s “relevant to portion blame at this stage”.
“If I had my way, every country would do this kind of analysis, and then we would have quite a dense learning moment so that the lessons can be applied”, he said.
He urged countries to learn from the experiences of the last two years, to make sure they have a “well-organised defence system” against this “very dangerous and difficult virus”, which he described as a “slippery customer”.
Dr Nabarro stressed the “absolute importance of maintaining” people’s understanding about what they as individuals need to do to keep themselves safe, as well as having the “right public health in society”.
“We can’t just rely on vaccination,” he said. “We need more than that, and that applies in Britain and that applies everywhere else.
“Just make sure everybody is part of the response, the virus is the problem, people are the solution, so let’s engage people in the response”.
Dr Nabarro, who is also the co-director and chair of Global Health at Imperial’s Institute of Global Health Innovation, said one of the lessons being learnt is that there should be no delay in responding to the virus when cases arise.
“What we have to remember is to be rapid and firm as soon as you get cases of the disease – it doesn’t mean you have a complete lockdown, it just means you need to be able to test and to isolate and to stop spread,” he said.
He stressed that lockdowns take place when the “situation is really serious” – but before that, a “really strong test, trace and isolate” programme should be enforced locally.
“In the beginning test and trace was very centralised and over time the importance of a more local operation with good sharing of data was actually key,” he added.
“Most importantly, act quickly, because if you delay, what we’re learning all over the world is that people suffer.”
Since the pandemic began, government data shows there have been more than 160,000 fatalities recorded in the UK where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
There have been over 137,000 deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test.
The UK has the second-largest coronavirus-related death toll in Europe, surpassed only by Russia, according to Johns Hopkins University.