Coronavirus: We may have to learn to live with COVID-19 for ‘several years’, top doctor says

People could have to learn to live with the novel coronavirus for “several years”, England’s deputy chief medical officer has said.

Speaking at the government’s daily briefing, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the UK will only be “out of this” once there is a vaccine that is “really capable of suppressing disease levels”.

“So from that perspective we may have to live, and learn to live, with this virus in the long-term, certainly for many months to come if not several years,” he said.

Mr Van-Tam warned the country will have to prepare for the virus to come back in the autumn and winter.

He cautioned that more information is needed on the seasonality of COVID-19, adding: “The data we have on other coronaviruses we have looked at very carefully, and it’s not clear that these coronaviruses are as seasonal as influenza.

“But there may be an element of seasonality and it may well be that the autumn and winter conditions provide a better environment for the virus to then do its work again.”

There have been concerns that the reintroduction of schools could lead to a second peak in coronavirus cases.

Studies have provided varying evidence on the role of children in transmitting COVID-19, but Professor Van-Tam said the “data are pretty sparse” on whether children can pass the virus on to adults.

“Children are not these kind of big high-output transmitters as they are with flu,” he said.

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