The head of the EU’s disease control agency warned Friday that the novel coronavirus could last indefinitely even as global infections slowed by nearly half in the last month and vaccine rollouts gathered pace in parts of the world.

Iran PressEurope: In an interview, ECDC chief Andrea Ammon urged European countries in particular not to drop their guard against a virus that seems very well adapted to humans and may require experts to tweak vaccines over time, as is the case for the seasonal flu.

"We should be prepared that it will remain with us," according to Ammon, head of the Stockholm-based European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

After the latest harsh wave of a pandemic that started in China more than a year ago, glimmers of hope flickered as a specialized AFP database showed the rate of new COVID-19 infections has slowed by 44.5% worldwide over the past month.

Already, more than 107 million people have been infected worldwide and nearly 2.4 million have died from COVID-19.

In Britain, a marked drop in infections and accelerating vaccinations have prompted some within the governing Conservative Party to push for stay-at-home rules to be lifted in early March.

Much of the country re-entered lockdown in early January to curb a more transmissible COVID-19 variant first identified in the UK.

The British government nonetheless voiced caution, a watchword echoed elsewhere, including Italy, Portugal, and Australia.

Italy extended a domestic travel ban until Feb. 25 and tightened restrictions in four regions amid rising concern about the spread of more infectious coronavirus variants.

Portugal extended border controls with Spain until March 1.

And Australia ordered more than 6 million people in Melbourne and the surrounding area into an emergency five-day coronavirus lockdown.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen urged the 27 EU member countries to accelerate the ratification of a key part of the bloc’s €750 billion ($900-billion) plan to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

The UK — which has left the EU and has Europe’s highest virus death toll after a heavily criticized initial response to the pandemic — reported that the economy shrank a record 9.9% last year.

Hungary, meanwhile, said it will become the first EU nation to start using Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

The country broke ranks with the EU last month by becoming the first bloc member to approve Sputnik V, ordering 2 million doses to be delivered over three months, enough to vaccinate 1 million people.

Recent results published in The Lancet journal found that the vaccine is 91.6% effective against COVID-19.