Speaking to Sky News on Monday, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 special envoy, Dr. David Nabarro, warned that the pandemic could still throw up “challenges and surprises” despite the progress that has been made in some parts of the world in tackling the coronavirus.
Criticizing politicians who are playing down the threat still posed by the virus, Nabarro said they “should not suggest” that COVID be treated like the flu or that it “has suddenly got incredibly weak.”
“We must go on treating it as though it is full of surprises, very nasty and rather cunning,” Nabarro stated, claiming that while “the end is in sight,” it is not known how long it is “going to take to get there” or “what sort of difficulties” will emerge along the way out of the pandemic.
“I do want everybody to do one thing, and that is to go on treating this virus with respect. It has not changed. It’s absolutely not suddenly become a soft thing – it is still very serious,” Nabarro added.
Directly addressing UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s recent comments that COVID should be treated like flu, Nabarro said it is “amazing” that officials keep making predictions that “the WHO don’t know,” as “we know there are more [variants] not far away.”
The comments appear to directly contradict the WHO’s Europe director, Hans Kluge, who claimed on Monday that the continent is “moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame,” as Omicron is milder than previous strains.
Addressing the potential emergence of new COVID variants, Kluge expressed a different view to his colleague, arguing that, while fresh strains might emerge “towards the end of the year,” it won’t necessarily mean “the pandemic coming back.”