guy fawkes day protest UK
© Bernadett Szabo / Reuters
Protesters hold up their Guy Fawkes masks on the Liberty Bridge during a demonstration by supporters of the Anonymous movement as part of the global "Million Mask March" protests, in Budapest, November 5, 2014.
A top World Health Organisation (WHO) figure has said wearing facial masks will be the new norm in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr David Nabarro, the UN body's COVID-19 envoy, claimed people would have to get accustomed to a 'new reality' of always wearing a facial covering.

Comment: Total nonsense. We'll "have to"? Some might do so, of course, out of hysteria. But with the authoritarian controls introduced the world over, we might just end up seeing more masks like those pictured above.

He spoiled the hopes of millions that the coronavirus will just disappear and said it will 'stalk the human race' for some time.

Comment: Many viruses "stalk the human race", and we don't all wear facial masks because of them. This new coronavirus is not the black plague - not even in the same league. To suggest that wear masks will be mandatory in the future because of it is, again, total nonsense.

Whether masks reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the general public is contested - bodies including the WHO say there is no evidence they cut the risk.

But Dr Nabarro said they can provide 'reassurance' for millions of anxious people as scientists race against time to find a vaccine.

Comment: So we're all going to have to get used to wearing masks simply because they can provide reassurance?

Dr Nabarro, the WHO's director-general on COVID-19, told the BBC: 'Some form of facial protection, I'm sure, is going to become the norm, not least to give people reassurance.

'But, I would say, don't imagine that you can do what you like when you are wearing a mask.'

Dr Nabarro stressed that people must become used to a new way of life in wake of the pandemic.

He said: 'Because this virus isn't going to go away, and we don't know whether people who have had the virus stay immune afterwards and will not get it again.

'We don't know when we will have a vaccine. So, what we are saying is get societies defended.

Comment: Something tells us humanity will do just fine with this virus. That's not to say the next one won't be a real killer, but the coronavirus is small beans compared to past pandemics.

'Yes, we will have to wear masks. Yes, there will have to be more physical distancing. Yes, we must protect the vulnerable.'

The benefit of using face masks has become a topic of fierce debate in recent weeks.

The WHO says widespread use is not necessary, and has raised concerns there could be a shortage of masks for medical workers if they are bought by the general public.

The UK Government has repeatedly insisted that healthy Britons do not need to wear face masks to try and protect themselves.

But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken a completely different stance, and says all Americans should wear them when out and about.

On Friday, international researchers, led by the University of Oxford, said that, despite a lack of evidence to show it reduces spreading, there was nothing to be lost in using face masks.

As many more lives are lost daily to the COVID-19 disease, caused by the coronavirus, Dr Nabarro said the virus will be halted by discovering more about how it behaves.

'Most importantly, we must all learn how to interrupt transmission,' he said.

'It's a revolution. Like happened when it was discovered that dirty water bore cholera in 1850.

'Or, like perhaps 25 years ago we all learned about HIV/Aids and its relationship with sex.

'We changed, and we adapted and we learned how to live with these new realities.

'We have also got to live with the new reality of life with COVID-19.'

More than 1.85million cases of the coronavirus have been reported worldwide, and almost 115,000 deaths.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg, considering millions more would of had the infection and never been tested.

Dr Nabarro doesn't expect the coronavirus to disappear entirely until a vaccine is developed, crushing hopes that normal life can resume.

'We think it's going to be a virus that stalks the human race for quite a long time to come until we can all have a vaccine to protect us,' he told NBC's 'Meet the Press'.

He added that the novel coronavirus didn't appear to behave like influenza, causing illness in 'waves', but is a persistent threat.

There are fears the coronavirus will cause a second wave of infections - but as a result of lockdown measures being eased and local transmission starting up again.

Whether the coronavirus itself reacts to seasonal changes in weather - like the influenza - is yet to be seen. But some experts hope it will be suppressed by warm temperatures.