LONDON: New drugs and treatments released by the end of the year could make coronavirus a “treatable disease,” bringing hope of a “way out to freedom,” UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
In an interview with UK newspaper The Telegraph, Hancock compared future coronavirus outbreaks to regular waves of the flu, saying that new drugs would make it easier to treat and control the disease.
The new treatments mean “a way out to freedom,” he added.
Hancock said that he hoped all adults in the UK could be offered the vaccine before September this year.
New treatments will play a crucial role in “turning coronavirus from a pandemic that affects all of our lives into another illness that we have to live with, like we do flu,” he said.
“That’s where we need to get coronavirus to over the months to come.”
His comments come as several countries around the world rule out so-called “zero coronavirus” strategies aimed at eliminating the disease completely.
But some countries, such as New Zealand, are continuing to employ a temporary suppression policy, which is designed to protect citizens in the short-term.
However, unless those countries decide to close their borders indefinitely, the strategy will fail in a long-term scenario.
Hancock’s comments on Britain’s future coronavirus strategy have been questioned by scientists, who say that the disease is more dangerous than common flu strains.
Dr. Sarah Pitt, a virologist at the University of Brighton in the UK, said: “Coronavirus is not a type of flu. It’s not the same sort of virus. It doesn’t cause the same sort of disease, it’s very, very nasty.”
She added: “The mutations and the variations that we’re seeing are becoming more infectious, not less infectious, and a bit more dangerous, not less dangerous.”
Prof. Steven Riley said the vaccination rollout did not mean that coronavirus controls should be dropped.
“No vaccine is perfect. We are certainly going to be in the situation where we can allow more infection in the community, but there is a limit.
“In the short term, if we were to allow a very large wave of infection, that wave will find all the people who couldn’t have the vaccine for very good reasons and those people who had the vaccine but unfortunately didn’t get the protection they needed.”
Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal, said that politicians would have to decide how many deaths would be acceptable if a “zero coronavirus” strategy was impossible.
He added that the UK was likely to see another coronavirus spike next winter and suggested that it would take two, three or four years to build up sufficient levels of population immunity.
He said: “Even if we do have high levels of population immunity, our borders are not going to be secure — and we can’t keep locking people up in hotels for the next five years.”