Europe should prepare for a second wave of coronavirus as it is likely inevitable since so few people have immunity, an EU medical expert has warned.
Dr Andrea Ammon said it was a question of “when” and on what scale a new wave of the disease will hit, rather than if.
Officials have previously raised fears it could strike during winter at the same time as flu or measles and completely overwhelm healthcare systems.
With this in mind, Dr Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said it is “not the time now to completely relax”.
Dr Ammon believes the world will be stuck with the novel coronavirus for a long time as it has become “well adapted to humans”.
“I don’t want to draw a doomsday picture but I think we have to be realistic,” she said.
More than 1.7 million people have so far been infected by the new coronavirus in Europe, while about 165,000 people have died.
Dr Ammon believes people returning from skiing trips in places like Italy, Austria and France in early March contributed to the speed at which the virus spread through Europe.
She also thinks lives may have been saved if governments had acted quicker to impose lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Dr Ammon’s warning of a second wave echoes that of Dr Hans Kluge, who said now is the time for preparation, not celebration.
Dr Kluge, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for Europe, said the UK and its continental neighbours “must remain vigilant” despite a fall in cases and deaths in some places.
He pointed to clusters of new cases in places where the virus had apparently disappeared – such as Wuhan, where the disease originated, and South Korea.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Dr Kluge said he was “very concerned” about a double wave, and urged nations to use this reprieve to strengthen public health systems.