BERLIN, March 17 (Reuters) - The coronavirus pandemic is likely to take about two years to run its course, the head of Germany's public health agency said, adding that much rides on the speed with which a vaccine against the virus was developed.
Dr Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute, said that eventually some 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the global population would have been infected, recovered and acquired immunity, but it was impossible to say how fast that would happen.
"Our working assumption is that it will take about two years," he told a news conference on Tuesday (March 17), adding that the timing also depended on how long it would take to get a vaccine developed and deployed.
"We do not yet know what the death rate will look like in the end," he told reporters.
He said that without the strict social distancing measures announced on Monday by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany could end up facing millions of coronavirus cases.
"We want to avoid that," he said, adding the institute was raising the risk level in Germany to "high".
He also said hospitals would have to at least double their intensive care capacity as one in five cases was serious.