The World Health Organization is crossing its fingers that the ongoing global health crisis will not last longer than two years. The 1918 Spanish Flu, which claimed the lives of tens of millions, took two years to contain.
On Friday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he hopes the coronavirus pandemic will not be as bad as the Spanish Flu, that if the international community will come together as one and succeed in producing a vaccine.
Earlier this month, Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Bill Gates predicted that rich nations have the capability to contain the virus by the end of next year.
The deadly Spanish Flu lasted from 1918 to 1920 when extreme poverty and massive cases of tuberculosis made the situation all the more vulnerable. Unlike the COVID-19, the Spanish Flu had sickened the young population the most.
Tedros, who is from Ethiopia and a biologist who has been WHO director since 2017, warned that nations around the world must continue to step up measures to contain the rapid rate of infections until a safe and effective treatment becomes available.
However, "there is no guarantee that we will," he said, even if the world comes up with a vaccine. "It will not eradicate the virus on its own," he stressed. Based on the latest reports, over 22 million people around the world have been infected by the virus since it was first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019, with 793,382 deaths.
Tedros urged countries worldwide to participate in the COVAX Global Vaccines Facility, cooperation whose aim is to accelerate the development and production of COVID-19 drugs, and eventually ensuring balanced access to these treatments for all nations.
While COVID-19 can spread faster compared to diseases from a hundred years ago since the globe is more inter-linked today, modern technology has granted scientists and doctors the tools to combat the virus more effectively, Tedros said.
The 1918 pandemic broke out in multiple waves. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that as many as half a billion people globally got sick, and 50 million died from the infection.
Meanwhile, Western Europe is being battered with the type of infections the region has not witnessed in many months, particularly in Italy, Spain, Germany, and France, triggering fears of a dreaded second wave.
On Friday, WHO issued a new guideline, which includes a recommendation for children aged 12 and above to wear protective face coverings under the same context as adults to ward off the virus.