Countries cannot simply lock their societies to defeat the coronavirus, the World Health Organization's leading emergency expert said on Sunday, adding that public health measures are needed to prevent the virus from coming back later.
"We really need to focus on finding those who are sick, who have the virus, and isolating them, finding their contacts, and isolating them," said Mike Ryan in an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.
"The danger right now with the barriers … If we don't take strict public health measures now when these restrictions on movement and barriers are lifted, there is a risk that the disease will skyrocket."
Much of Europe and the United States has followed China and other Asian countries and has introduced drastic restrictions to combat the new corona virus. Most workers are said to work from home and schools, bars, pubs and restaurants are being closed.
Mike Ryan said the examples of China, Singapore, and South Korea that combined restrictions with strict measures to screen any suspect were a model for Europe that the WHO said had replaced Asia as the epicenter of the pandemic.
"Once we suppress the transmission, we have to go after the virus. We have to start fighting the virus," said Mike Ryan.
Italy is now the most affected country in the world, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that if people don't avoid social interaction, the UK health system may be overwhelmed. British Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said test production will double next week and then increase.
Mike Ryan also said that several vaccines are under development, but only one has started trials in the United States. When asked how long it would take for a vaccine to be available in the UK, he said that people should be realistic.
"We have to make sure it's absolutely safe … we'll talk for at least a year," he said.
"The vaccines will come, but we have to get out and do what we have to do now."
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)