Coronavirus will continue to spread at an alarming rate until "most of the world is infected" as it is now almost impossible to contain in many nations, according to infectious disease experts.

Already this week, the total number of coronavirus cases has broken 10 million and the number of patients who have died is above 500,000. Every week there are record-breaking spikes in the numbers of new cases globally.

Now infectious disease experts have warned the worst is yet to come.

They say Covid-19 has already wreaked havoc on third world nations that have no resources to contain the virus, meaning it can now spread unabated through massive populations.


But even in developed nations like the US, they say a tug of war between health and the economy means the eye-watering infection rates we've seen in recent weeks will soon be the "new normal".

Professor Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at the Australian National University, said the reality of today is that only a low percentage of the world's population has been infected by the virus.

That means that in the coming weeks, months and even years the potential for it to spread is huge.

There are fears the recent record-breaking infection rates could be the 'new normal'. Photo / Johns Hopkins University
There are fears the recent record-breaking infection rates could be the 'new normal'. Photo / Johns Hopkins University

Another issue is that the spread doesn't seem to have shown any signs of slowing down in the northern hemisphere's summer.

"Normally you would expect these viruses to spread more in winter, but we've seen that they can spread readily in summer as well," he told "So that's clearly a big issue."

One theory behind this is that people in the southern US states, for example, where infection rates have skyrocketed have been spending more time inside with airconditioning, and research shows the virus spreads more readily indoors.

The death toll from Covid-19 continues to rise. Photo / AP
The death toll from Covid-19 continues to rise. Photo / AP

"What it shows unfortunately is that this virus is not going anywhere soon," he said. "The reality is that this is going to keep on spreading until we have most of the world infected, which is not a good idea, or we get a safe and effective vaccine."

Now that the virus has hit third world countries, he says it is almost impossible to stop as many of those nations don't have the resources to contain it.


Professor Stephen Leeder, an emeritus professor of public health and community medicine at the University of Sydney, said the impending impact of the virus on developing nations is worrying.

"We're looking at the intersection of all sorts of social conditions like poverty and overcrowding mixed with a very nasty virus," he told

"The more that it goes into the developing world, where they don't have the advantages that we have in terms of being able to track, trace and isolate, you have to say that the numbers rising like this is not surprising, but they are distressing."

He said the entire world was caught "flat-footed" by the virus, and we were "tempting fate" to make predictions that we could prepare for the future.

"We didn't know what to expect because we hadn't seen anything quite like this before," he said. "We had SARS but that didn't spread that far at all.

"This is unique and we had nothing to estimate how far it would spread or how lethal it would be until we had some figures coming out of China."


The crisis is also a political one. Professor Leeder said the crisis has also exposed nations with erratic leaders like Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro.

"He is someone who doesn't seem to get the Covid idea, doesn't believe in it or doesn't want to believe in it. You've got a real problem," he said.

"Because the health and economy are so closely linked that if you've got someone who's putting their foot on the brake for funding towards test kits or intensive care beds, you're in deep trouble."

Leaders like Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro pose a problem for the global response. Photo / AP
Leaders like Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro pose a problem for the global response. Photo / AP

Even in developed nations there is now a painful decision being made between health risks and the reopening of the economy.

"In the US, for example, there's a really strong feeling that they must stimulate the economy, but when you look there's still high rates of coronavirus running through the population – so it's damned if you do, damned if you don't," Professor Leeder said.

Both experts told that even in nations that have contained the spread, like Australia, we're going to have to maintain social distancing rules for "at least a couple of years". That means things like international travel and going for nights out are likely to be impacted for the foreseeable future.


"We've got to be careful in Australia particularly with things like bars and crowded situations where there's alcohol, because that seems to be a really good way of spreading the virus," Professor Collignon said.

He predicts there won't be a sense of normality, even if Australia is relatively under control, for the next two years at the "very least".

Today marks six months since the World Health Organisation was first informed of the outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Overnight, the global health body revealed it was sending a team to China next week in connection with the search for the origin of the virus.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated the warning that the pandemic is "not even close to being over".

"Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world – and our lives – would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus," he told reporters.


"We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over.

"Globally the pandemic is actually speeding up.

"We're all in this together, and we're all in this for the long haul. We have already lost so much – but we cannot lose hope."