Novartis CEO says Covid will become endemic and calls for better pandemic preparedness

Novartis said in August that it plans to spin off its Sandoz generics unit to focus on its proprietary prescription drugs.

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The chief executive of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis warned on Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic will likely settle into an endemic phase and renewed calls for policymakers to sufficiently fund pandemic preparedness.

“If you look at the last couple of years, we have populations that have built up immunity, you have a virus that continues to make changes, but I think what we’re going to settle into is more of an endemic environment in terms of coronaviruses and the Covid virus specifically,” he said. Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“This will mean that we will have sporadic outbreaks, we will have at-risk populations that need to continue to be vaccinated, but I would expect, as has been the case with other coronaviruses over the last few centuries, that human populations will adapt and reach a kind of resolution with this virus.”

Narasimhan, who has previously warned that future pandemics are bound to happen, made it clear that world leaders must learn from the coronavirus crisis to be in a better place for future pandemics.

“I think what’s really important now is to turn our attention to pandemic preparedness for the future,” Narasimhan said.

“I’m not sure we’ve learned our lessons from the past that we need to invest in [research and development]we need to invest more in preparedness to be ready for the next pandemic, and I think that should be on the global agenda,” he added.

“Straining Belief”

His comments come shortly after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world’s failure to prepare for future pandemics was “straining credulity”.

Speaking at WEF on Wednesday, Guterres said: “Somehow, after all we’ve endured, we haven’t learned the global public health lessons of the pandemic. We’re nowhere near prepared for the pandemics to come “.

Last month, China abruptly ended most of its Covid-19 controls, prompting a spike in infections among its population of 1.4 billion.

Beijing reported on Saturday that almost 60,000 people with Covid had died in hospital since the country eased strict Covid restrictions last month, a sharp increase from previous figures.

Asked whether it makes pharmacological sense for some governments to take a hard line on Chinese citizens entering their country after Beijing’s reopening, Narasimhan said: “I think from an epidemiological point of view, certainly You can question that because in the end, we’ve learned the hard way that these viruses will move independently, and they don’t really pay attention to national borders.”

“I continue to believe that open borders and open economies are the right solution for the global order,” he added.

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