Coronavirus will not just 'fizzle out' say experts

The suggestion that the coronavirus could fizzle out made by a leading doctor has been criticised by other experts.

Professor Karol Sikora, dean of medicine at the University of Buckingham, said there were three potential outcomes for the outbreak when he appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live on Tuesday.

Prof Sikora, a leading oncologist and former chief of the World Health Organisation’s cancer programme, said: “Number one is what we all want, the thing just fizzles out, it causes very few deaths, very few hospitalisations, nobody gets really ill, and it just gradually drifts into that sort of hinterland of a chronic viral infection, sits in the population and bubbles up now and again without too much problem, just like the flu, just like the common cold.

“The second outcome is local spikes and the third outcome is full-blown second wave, we genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen.

“I think, being positive about it, it’s got to be the first one, but there are other scenarios that we have to plan for, that’s the problem.”

He later said both human behaviour and the virus had changed during the pandemic.

Prof Sikora added: “It’s probably changed again, it wants to live with us, that’s the problem, it wants to actually be nice to us and go on forever living with us, and killing us is not a good way to start a relationship.

“It is trying to change, we’ve certainly changed – what we’ve heard about the schools trying to implement handwashing, social distancing, all the other things – that’s a change in our behaviour and that will drive the infection down.

“What the outcome is now, with local spikes, or second wave, or just fizzling out we have to see, but I’m the fizzling out brigade, I must say.

“It seems likely to me that the lack of hospitalisations is really good news.”

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health, University of Southampton, said the Covid-19 pandemic is accelerating globally.

He said: “It would be very dangerous to promote the idea that the virus is ‘fizzling out’.

“In the most recent (World Health Organisation) situation report, there were 1.8 million confirmed new Covid-19 cases, an increase in the number of new cases from the week before, and bringing the total number of cases over the last six months to more than 25 million.

“We are a long way from being anywhere near the concept of being able to say that Covid-19 is ‘fizzling out’.”

Addressing Prof Sikora’s discussion of how the virus had changed, Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, said it was “flawed” to think the coronavirus had become less pathogenic.

He said: “Whilst the virus genome drifts gradually in sequence and some changes have become widespread, there is no evidence to suggest that the virus is in any way attenuated.

“Whilst the number of deaths and hospitalisations has lessened in the UK, this is proportionate to case numbers and heavily influenced by the changes to patient demographics.

“Overall, the rise and fall in cases correlates with non-pharmaceutical interventions, falling when they are implemented and potentially rising again when they are relaxed unless community transmission is halted.

“This is not fizzling out in any sense. Minimising the seriousness of this disease risks resurgence on a troubling scale.”

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