Coronavirus: Europe and the US could be hit by three more waves of COVID-19, WHO director warns

A person's blood is collected for testing of coronavirus antibodies at a drive-thru testing site in Hempstead, N.Y., Tuesday, April 14, 2020. The test, being administered by Somos Community Care, takes approximately 15 minutes and tests for the presence of antibodies in a person's blood, signifying that they may have some immunity to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A person's blood is collected for testing of coronavirus antibodies at a drive-through testing site in New York. (AP)

Both Europe and the United States could face another three waves of coronavirus, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) director.

Lawrence Gostin, a professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University, said that the world’s “interconnected society” meant that more outbreaks would happen even if the current one is controlled.

Speaking on the day that Donald Trump pledged to halt hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the WHO, Gostin told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “COVID-19 is about to march through subsaharan Africa and perhaps the Indian subcontinent like an avalanche.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 31:  Georgetown University Law Center's O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law Professor Lawrence Gostin participates in a panel discussion on the Zika virus at the law center August 31, 2016 in Washington, DC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said that his agency has spent $194 million of the $222 million in federal funds set to fight the Zika virus and that if Congress did not budget more money to fight the disease.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Lawrence Gostin warned of the potential of four waves of coronavirus. (AP)

“Even if the United States and Europe were to get their COVID epidemics under control, if you've got COVID raging in other parts of the world, in this interconnected society it will come back to Europe and the United States.”

Gostin, who argued against travel restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus in January, added: “In fact I could predict that if it gets out of control in these lower income countries that we will see in the US and in Europe a second and a third wave and even a fourth wave of COVID.

“So we're truly only as safe as the weakest link in the global chain.”

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Trump halts WHO funding

Gostin’s comments come off the back of Donald Trump’s decision to halt US funding of up to $500 million (£400 million) for the WHO over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The president was widely condemned after he accused the international body of "severely mismanaging and covering up" the spread of the virus.

Trump said the outbreak could have been contained at its source and spared lives had the UN health agency done a better job investigating reports coming out of China.

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, April 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House. (AP)

He claimed the WHO failed to carry out its "basic duty" and must be held accountable.

However, Downing Street said the organisation was playing an important role in tackling the spread of the virus, and scientists hit out at the "short-sighted" move.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Our position is that the UK has no plans to stop funding the WHO, which has an important role to play in leading the global health response.

"Coronavirus is a global challenge and it's essential that countries work together to tackle this shared threat.”

‘Dangerous, short-sighted and politically motivated’

Scientists railed against Trump's actions and stressed the need for international co-operation in tackling COVID-19.

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: "Politically volatile leadership is rarely constructive or helpful at times of crisis.”

Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the University of Leeds School of Medicine, added: "This most recent intervention in public health policy by President Trump is perhaps one of the least productive, most short-sighted, self-motivated and hypocritical acts I have ever witnessed.”

Peter Piot, director and professor of global health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said: "Halting funding to the WHO is a dangerous, short-sighted and politically motivated decision, with potential public health consequences for all countries in the world, whether they are rich or poor.”

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