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'We're going to have to learn to live with virus,' says EU health boss

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Women stand in a suburb Paris metro train wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus in Paris, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020.
Women stand in a suburb Paris metro train wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus in Paris, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020.   -   Copyright  Francois Mori/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Europeans need to accept that social distancing rules are here to stay, the EU's top health official has warned.

Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, told Euronews that until a safe and effective vaccine becomes widely available, countries will need to adjust to a new normal – and do everything they can to keep the spread of the virus in check.

More than 2.5 million cases of COVID-19 have so far been reported across Europe, with the UK, Italy, Spain and France among the hardest hit.

"After restrictions were lifted, in many countries people felt that they wanted to go back to what they felt was their normal lives," Kyriakides said in an interview on Euronews' breakfast show Good Morning Europe.

"This is not possible. We're going to have to learn to live with the virus, and live a new kind of normality."

Hopes for a long-term solution to the pandemic hinge on the development of a safe and effective vaccine, but that could take many more months – and even then, there will still be challenges, Kyriakides warned.

"Even if and when we have a successful vaccine, this does not mean that the situation of this pandemic will be solved the next day. We're going to have to continue to be careful," she said.

The commissioner added that in their efforts to curb the spread of the virus, member states should aim to strike a balance and always be mindful of the repercussions that public health measures have on populations and society as a whole.

"The way to contain this is by increased testing, contact tracing and isolation when needed. It is vitally important for society, for economies that we avoid generalised lockdowns," she said.

Watch more of the interview in the video player above.