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World Health Organisation: We cannot wait for vaccine before lifting lockdown

By Ryan Hooper, PA

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the world “can’t wait” for a Covid-19 vaccine to become available before lifting lockdown measures.

Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer at WHO Europe, warned that such immunisation is at least 18 months away.

And she dismissed suggestions from health minister Nadine Dorries that the UK needs a vaccine before it can “exit full lockdown”.

During a briefing on Thursday, Ms Smallwood said: “The WHO is not saying we need to wait for a vaccine.

“We don’t know when a vaccine will be available for use in our populations and what we don’t want to do is take action now based on the situation now.

“We need to think of ourselves in a position of a new normal until such a time that a vaccine might become available to us.”

She added that more than 70 coronavirus vaccines are currently being developed, but that it is likely to be at least 18 months before one is available.

She added: “We are aware that in reality it normally takes several years for a vaccine to become available, but we can’t predict when a vaccine will become available and we can’t wait for that.”

The UK’s current lockdown measures are expected to be extended on Thursday evening.