The Executive Director of the World Health Organization Dr Michael Ryan has said economies cannot return to normal until the Covid-19 virus is somewhat under control.

Speaking online at the MacGill Summer School, Dr Ryan said it is not a case of Covid-19 versus the economy. 

"One will drive the other. We need to invest in the Covid response and make our systems more resilient," he said. 

Former President Mary Robinson delivered the opening lecture of the 40th annual MacGIll School, which is taking place digitally this year.

The MacGill School describes itself as Ireland's international forum for thought leaders to discuss critical issues facing the world. 

Other contributors this year include the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, former EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford Professor Louise Richardson and Chair in Global Public Health at University of Edinburgh Professor Devi Sridhar. 

During his speech, Dr Ryan said Covid-19 is having a punishing effect on our economies that will not go away until the virus is under control. 

He said a clear strategy needs to be implemented to deal with the virus.  

Dr Ryan said the focus needs to be on finding where it is and aggressively shutting down clusters. 

He said Europe paid a huge price with the first lockdown but said there had not been any follow through.

He said there may have been "collective amnesia" after initial heavy restrictions when there should have been a focus on continuing to build on many things including governance and education infrastructure.  

Dr Ryan said there needs to be collective responsibility and people need to ask themselves what they can do to make the situation better. 

"In the end it all comes down to simple acts. We need to knuckle down and we need to hold our governments to accounts but he we need a collective commitment to get the job done," he added. 

Dr Ryan said the pandemic was never going to be a "one-punch crisis" and warned that there could be a return to February conditions if care is not taken.

He said it has been a "wake-up call" for our public health systems and our society. 

He said Irish people have been fantastic during the pandemic.

"They are bright, intelligent and good and our youth are our strongest asset," Dr Ryan said. 

Dr Ryan said there is now a lot more known about the virus and how to deal with a second wave.

He said patients are surviving more often, there are new therapies and trials about to start with "antibody cocktails".