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Coronavirus will pose significant risks without vaccines: WHO expert

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LONDON/GENEVA: Parts of the world are starting to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and to cautiously resume some sort of normal life, but the coronavirus will pose significant risks until vaccines are developed, the top emergencies expert at the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's emergencies programme, said while many countries are still in the eye of the storm, others were beginning to show it is possible to contain the disease to some extent.

"In that sense, there's hope," Dr Ryan said from Geneva.

"At a global level the situation is still very, very serious but the pattern of the disease and the trajectory of the virus is very different in different parts of the world right now.

"What we're learning is it is possible to get this disease under control and possible to begin resuming normal economic and social life, with a new way of having to do that and with extreme caution and vigilance."

More than 3.44 million people have been reported to be infected globally and 243,015 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of Sunday.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December.

"We're in the middle of the fight of our lives - all of us around the world," Dr Ryan said. "There's going to be a significant and extended risk until we reach a point where we have a safe and effective vaccine available to all."

Dr Ryan said some countries, including China, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand, have reached what he described as "a steady state" with regard to the spread of Covid-19.

South Korea said it would further relax social distancing rules from May 6, allowing a phased re-opening of businesses.

Dr Ryan said this showed "not that the virus can be beaten absolutely, but that we can reach a point where we have enough control over the virus that our social and economic lives can begin again". But he warned that any government seeking to relax restrictions should do so with extreme caution. - REUTERS