A LEADING doctor has expressed his hope that the coronavirus pandemic will be under control within a year, allowing “some steps” towards normality.

However, Dr Tony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the US president, also expressed his fear about mutations of the virus rekindling the outbreak even in countries where it appeared to be under control.

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Fauci, who heads to US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was speaking this afternoon during a discussion at the Edinburgh Futures Conversations, organised by the University of Edinburgh.

He told his online audience: “It is important to realise that variants arise and if you suppress the virus in one country, but it is allowed to spread uninhibited in other areas of the world, sooner or later, the variants, the new lineages the mutants will come back and rekindle the outbreak, even in countries that seem to have it under control.”

Fauci said there was considerable work ahead to control the virus and it was “absolutely critical” that countries around the world worked together.

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Asked about his hopes for the next year, he added: “I know we’re not going to get the world vaccinated in one year but I would hope that we suppress the dynamics of this outbreak to the point where it may not be eliminated but it is under extraordinarily good control so that there can be some steps towards normality.

“I don’t think we’re going to be completely normal a year from now, but I hope we’re well on the way to normality so that we can ultimately get the world protected at the same time as we get economic recovery, so that all the unintended consequences of shutting down begin to normalise, including other health issues that have arisen because of the shutdown.”

“So we still have a considerable amount of work in front of us," he continued.

“It’s absolutely critical that we all work together, every country in the world working together in solidarity and in cooperation.”

Fauci said the question he was asked most often related to when we would get back to some form of normality, but that should not be rushed.

“What I often say is, if we jump the gun or do it too quickly, what happens is that you can get a resurgence of infection.

“So, the question is, what is the right balance of continuing to put stringent public health measures at the same time as you gradually open up the economy and open up the country?

“It’s very risky – if you go too fast, you’ll have a setback. If you go too slow, you have a lot of the suffering that young doctors spoke about, the mental health problems, the economic problems. It’s a very delicate balance.”

In another conference session, Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said people were now beginning to take notice of public health issues.

She added there were two main reasons for being hopeful for the future.

“I think the MRNA vaccines are incredibly exciting. We’re already seeing them redeployed for malaria,” said Sridhar.