LONDON: UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that he believes new treatments and vaccines will turn the novel coronavirus into a disease which "we can live with like we do flu".
Hancock, speaking to the Daily Telegraph newspaper on Saturday, said that new drugs should arrive in 2021 that will make coronavirus much more treatable, reports Xinhua news agency.
He said vaccines would reduce the number of people admitted to hospital, bring down the number of deaths and cut transmission of the virus.
"I hope that COVID-19 will become a treatable disease by the end of the year," he said. "If COVID-19 ends up being like flu, so we live our normal lives and we mitigate through vaccines and treatments, then we can get on with everything again," he said.
Hancock's remarks sparked speculation that the UK government was not pursuing an elimination strategy aimed at ruling out COVID-19 in Britain, according to the Evening Standard newspaper.
More than 14 million people in Britain have now been given their first vaccine does and on February 12, the coronavirus reproduction rate, also known as the R number, dropped below one for the first time since July.
According to official data, the R number is now between 0.7 and 0.9 in every region of the UK. England is currently under the third national lockdown since outbreak of the pandemic in the country. Similar restriction measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As of Sunday morning, the UK has registered a total of 4,038,884 coronavirus cases and 117,128 deaths.
The country's caseload is the fourth highest in the world after the US, India and Brazil, while the death toll is the fifth largest following the US, Brazil, Mexico and India. (IANS)