Coronavirus pandemic is 'only just beginning' and we don't know when it will end

The world is only at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, a World Health Organisation expert has warned.

Dr David Nabarro, one of the WHO’s special envoys on Covid-19, said the ‘grotesque’ situation was ‘worse than any science fiction about pandemics’ on Tuesday.

Addressing the UK’s foreign affairs committee, he predicted that even more widespread damage is likely to be caused, saying: ‘We’re not even in the middle of it yet’.

Speaking to MPs, Dr Nabarro said: ‘It’s much worse than any of the science fiction about pandemics. This is really serious – we’re not even in the middle of it yet. We’re still at the beginning of it.

‘And we’re beginning to see what damage it’s going to cause the world. And it’s getting nastier as we go into this particular phase in Europe of watching the thing come back again.’

The ‘terrible’ situation could have been avoided if country leaders had invested in pandemic preparedness and reacted more to emergency alerts made by the WHO in January, Dr Nabarro added.

He said: ‘None of us find the present situation anything other than horrible, grotesque, really embarrassing.

‘It’s a terrible situation, a health issue has got so out of control it’s knocking the world into, not just a recession, but a huge economic contraction which would probably double the number of poor people, double the number of malnourished, lead to hundreds of millions of small businesses going bankrupt.’

It follows comments from the WHO’s director-general that Europe is ‘not out of the woods yet’.

While deaths remain at a ‘relatively low level’, the average number of daily cases in Europe is now higher than during the first peak of the pandemic, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned.

It comes amid a testing shortage across the UK – with pictures today showing huge queues in Manchester, Birmingham, Bury, and Essex.

Matt Hancock said coronavirus tests will go to priority groups first, as he admitted there had been ‘operational challenges’ in the Commons on Tuesday afternoon.

An updated prioritisation list will soon be published to set out who will be at the front of the queue for testing, as prioritisation becomes ‘a choice that we must make’, he added.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has accused the health secretary of ‘losing control of this virus’, while government adviser Sir John Bell has confessed he believes the lack of available tests signifies a second wave is at play.

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