Life ‘won’t be normal until 2024, when pandemic is over globally’ warns top doc

Normal life will not return until 2024 when the coronavirus pandemic is over globally, warns a top scientist.

It will take another three to four years for the world to go back to normal, Dr Clare Wenham, assistant professor of global health policy at London School of Economics says.

Until then, the pandemic will dominate large parts of our lives.

Dr Wenham says when the vaccine is distributed across the world – only then can we go back to a life resembling normality.

Although countries such as the UK and Israel have made progress with vaccine roll-outs, not all countries are in the same position.

"At the moment, the data is showing it's going to be 2023/24 before the global vaccines are distributed to everybody," Dr Wenham told Sky News.

"That's a long time. And distributing some now might be able to get us back to normal life sooner."

Even if the vaccination drive is as successful as possible in the UK and the population is protected, border controls will remain in place to avoid variants being brought in from other countries.

"This pandemic isn't going to be over until it's over globally," Dr Wenham added.

The assistant professor said there was a "real imperative" to make sure that all populations had access to coronavirus vaccines, reports The Mirror.

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This weekend the World Health Organisation urged the UK to pause its vaccination programme once vulnerable groups have received their jabs to help ensure the global rollout is fair.

WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said she wanted to appeal to people in the UK, telling them "you can wait", because ensuring equitable global distribution is "clearly morally the right thing to do".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he aims to offer all UK adults a first dose by autumn, but the WHO has said countries should be aiming for "two billion doses" to be "fairly distributed" around the world by the end of 2021.

The UK currently has one of the highest levels of vaccine coverage, along with Israel and the UAE, but many poorer countries are yet to start any immunisations.

When asked to clarify whether, once the UK has vaccinated its top nine priority groups, it should help efforts elsewhere instead of continuing with less vulnerable members of the population, Ms Harris told BBC Breakfast on Saturday: "We're asking all countries in those circumstances to do that: 'hang on, wait for those other groups'.

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"We'll also appeal to all the people of the UK – you can wait."

"We're asking countries, once you've got those (high risk and health care worker) groups, please ensure that the supply you've got access to is provided for others," she added.

"While that is morally clearly the right thing to do, it's also economically the right thing to do.

"There have been a number of very interesting analyses showing that just vaccinating your own country and then sitting there and saying 'we're fine' will not work economically.

"That phrase 'no man is an island' applies economically as well.

"We in the world, we're so connected and unless we get all societies working effectively once again, every society will be financially effected."

WHO directors have previously said that vaccine nationalism could cost high-income countries 4.5 trillion US dollars.

This is almost half of an estimated 9.2 trillion dollar hit to the global economy, according to a report commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation.

WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has repeatedly called for equitable distribution of vaccines and warned that a "me first" approach would prolong the pandemic, as well as human and economic suffering.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), has also warned that vaccinating "a lot of people in a few countries, leaving the virus unchecked in large parts of the world, will lead to more variants emerging".

He also said countries with existing vaccine supply deals could donate a percentage of doses to the WHO's Covax global vaccine-sharing fund "without taking away from the national effort to protect the most vulnerable in society and healthcare workers".

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