South Korea and Japan have been singled out as countries whose response to the Covid-19 pandemic was a lesson to other nations struggling to control the virus, expert scientists told the Global Scientific Summit sponsored by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and Carnival Corp.
Summit co-chair Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corp, said 12 eminent scientists were assembled via video link “to cut through the noise and provide a Covid-19 baseline grounded in science and the latest facts”.
“Covid-19 has completely disrupted our world way beyond what any one of us could have imaged,” he said, “yet the reality is we need to learn to live with the virus in such a way that the precautions against it, and their consequences, are not worse than the virus itself.”
WTTC President & CEO Gloria Guevara said she welcomed the opinions of a select group of medical and science experts “as we are all anxious to get back to normal”.
“Covid-19 has had a crushing global socio-economic impact and is threatening the jobs of millions of people whose very livelihoods depend upon a thriving travel & tourism sector for their survival," she said.
The biggest takeaway from the summit was that social distancing, the wearing of masks and contact tracing are essential to control the spread of the virus.
Dr Michael Z Lin, of Stanford University, said South Korea and Japan had done a good job by ensuring the extensive use of face masks and with contact tracing. “In the United States there are a lot of things that we can do better – more testing, smarter testing and with more resources dedicated to contact tracing.”
Dr Vivek Murthy, former vice admiral in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and 19th surgeon general of the US, has previously worked on public health issues such as the Ebola and the Zika viruses.
“Even in an optimistic scenario it will be mid-2021 before we see a vaccine for Covid-19, and even when we have a vaccine, we shouldn’t expect life to return to pre-Covid 19 normal in 2021.
“It will take the best vaccination programme in the history of the world to distribute a vaccine to everyone,” he said.
Murthy pointed out that during the H1N1 epidemic of 2009-10, it took five months to vaccinate 80 million people — “that’s a sobering number and too long to stamp out coronavirus”.
He said a poll in the US indicated that 50% of people polled would not take, or would be wary of accepting, a Covid-19 vaccine. That was worrying, he added, because at least 70% of a country’s population needed to be vaccinated to eradicate the virus.
“The high number of people wary of the vaccine is due to misinformation – even though we don’t yet have a vaccine,” he added.