The World Health Organization (WHO) said a large number of scientists across the world are studying coronavirus and none of the genome sequences show the virus is mutating to become more dangerous.
But WHO warns that doesn’t mean the pandemic is not getting more dangerous.
“There are more than 40,000 full genome sequences that are available,” WHO infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove told a briefing.
“Scientists are looking to see, are there changes in the virus? And as it is a coronavirus — it is an RNA virus — there are normal changes in this virus that one would expect over time,” she said. RNA viruses such as influenza and coronaviruses are generally more unstable and prone to mutation than viruses that use DNA to replicate.
“None of these changes so far indicate that the virus itself is changing in terms of its ability to transmit or to cause more severe disease,” Van Kerkhove added.
But Van Kerkhove said that doesn’t mean the spread of the virus isn’t becoming more dangerous. “People grow tired,” she said. They may become lax in the measures needed to control the spread of the virus, such as social distancing. “It's very difficult to keep up all of these measures and we must remain strong and vigilant,” she said.
As lockdowns are lifted, slowly, across the globe, some “social measures may need to be reintroduced again, and that may frustrate people,” Van Kerkhove said.
“And that, in a sense, could make the virus more dangerous because people become complacent. And it's important that no one becomes complacent. This is far from over.”
Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO executive director of Health Emergencies Program, said the virus does remain stable, but added, “This is already a dangerous virus; we've been seeing this consistently for months now.”