World may be approaching saturation point in terms of coronavirus infections, says virologist

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Apr 10, 2020, 02.35 PM(IST)

Coronavirus across the world Photograph:( AFP )

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The death toll from COVID-19 -- a disease caused by coronavirus -- has exceeded 90,000 worldwide. More than 192 countries are under lockdown, and the global economy is staring at an unprecedented recession. So will there be any respite from this pandemic?

With more than 1.5 million people infected worldwide, the planet is battling the one of the worst health tragdies of the modern world -- the coronavirus pandemic. 

The death toll from COVID-19 -- a disease caused by coronavirus -- has exceeded 90,000 worldwide. More than 192 countries are under lockdown, and the global economy is staring at an unprecedented recession.

So will there be any respite from this pandemic? And any time soon? Belgian virologist Guido Vanham, the former head of virology at the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, says the countries may be reaching a saturation point in terms of infections. But that does not mean the tragedy is getting over any time soon.

"It will probably never end, in the sense that this virus is clearly here to stay unless we eradicate it. And the only way to eradicate such a virus would be with a very effective vaccine that is delivered to every human being. We have done that with smallpox, but that's the only example - and that has taken many years," Vanham said, in an interaction with the World Economic Forum.

It may reappear seasonally, he said, adding, "but at some point in this epidemic - and certainly in the countries that are most affected, like Italy and Spain -- there will be saturation. Because the virus just has fewer people to infect -- and so the epidemic will come down naturally. And that's what happened in in all the previous epidemics when we didn't have any [treatments]. The rate of infection and the number of those susceptible will determine when that happens."

In the researches being done on the deadly virus, there has been an unresolved question about what determines an individual's susceptibility to this disease.

There's age, and there's the history of other diseases.

"People’s immune systems weaken with age. But then there is this concept of co-morbidities, which means that some people, even younger people, get ill because they have other diseases.

"It's logical that when you have cancer or diabetes, that you are more susceptible to infections. But what is remarkable - what we do not really understand - is that people with simple hypertension are also very vulnerable to developing this disease. So that's one of the unresolved questions," Vanham said.

Vanham also said that a research is underway on people who are infected but do not get ill.

"The result can be really interesting," he said.

Meanwhile, US coronavirus deaths topped 16,400 on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally. The cases topped 459,000, up 27,000 from the prior day.

Also read | Death toll from COVID-19 exceeds 90,000 worldwide

Italy saw the most deaths, standing at 17,669 among 139,422 confirmed cases, followed by Spain, with 15,238 deaths among 152,446 cases.