European Leaders Are Blunt: A Vaccine Won’t Come Soon Enough

SOAVE, Italy (AP) -
Scientists are seen working at Cobra Biologics, they are working on a potential vaccine for COVID-19, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Keele, Britain, April 30. (Reuters/Carl Recine)

In separate, stark warnings, two major European leaders have bluntly told their citizens that the world needs to adapt to living with the coronavirus and cannot wait to be saved by the development of a vaccine.

The comments by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came as nations around the world and U.S. states are both struggling with restarting economies blindsided by the pandemic. With 36 million newly unemployed in the U.S. alone, economic pressures are building even as authorities acknowledge that reopening risks setting off new waves of infections and deaths.

Pushed hard by Italy’s regional leaders and weeks in advance of an earlier timetable, Conte is allowing restaurants, bars and beach facilities to open Monday, the same day that church services can resume and shops reopen.

’’We are facing a calculated risk, in the awareness … that the epidemiological curve could go back up,” Conte said late Saturday. “We are confronting this risk, and we need to accept it, otherwise we would never be able to relaunch.”

Conte added that Italy could “not afford” to wait until a vaccine was developed. Health experts say the world could be months, if not years, away from having a vaccine available to everyone despite the scientific gold rush now on to create such a vaccine.

“We would find ourselves with our social and productive fabric heavily damaged,” Conte said.

Italy’s economy is forecast to contract 9% this year due to the coronavirus amid a long, strict lockdown.

For his part, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized last month with a serious bout of COVID-19, speculated Sunday that a vaccine may not be developed at all, despite the huge global effort to produce one.

“I said we would throw everything we could at finding a vaccine,” Johnson wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper. “There remains a very long way to go, and I must be frank that a vaccine might not come to fruition.”

Johnson said Britain was taking “baby steps” toward reopening, “trying to do something that has never had to be done before — moving the country out of a full lockdown.”

“Despite these efforts, we have to acknowledge we may need to live with this virus for some time to come,” Johnson wrote.