Countries need to navigate a better way of living to protect us from Covid-19 virus "and anything that comes in the future", a spokesperson for the World Health Organization has said.

Dr Margaret Harris told RTÉ's News at One that many countries relaxed too much over the summer.

She said there was a perception in many countries in Europe that "we had reached the finish line and it was time to celebrate" during the summer.

Te message to continue to suppress the virus did not get through in many countries who went back to "the previous normals and did not recognise that we are in a new normal and have to find our way through this new normal," she said.

Dr Harris said that lockdowns do work to reduce spread but come at great economic and social costs.

She said the WHO want to see government's track, trace and isolate and to look closely at clusters of infection where it really transmits and identify everyone "who unknowingly may be seeding other clusters".

Dr Harris said that people need to be enabled to self-isolate in many ways; through their employers, access to food and also through having access to supplies of masks and hand sanitiser everywhere to assist in the prevention of spread.

She said "let's stop blaming the young people - we all need to become lifesavers".

In relation to a vaccine, Dr Harris said there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic that one can begin to be distributed by the middle of next year, though it will not be immediately available to everyone at the same time.

She said that there are 200 vaccine candidates in development and ten are now into the last phase, though she said that this does not guarantee any of them will meet the two required elements for approval, a very good safety profile and a decent level of efficacy.

She said this is measured as a vaccine proven to provide protection to 60 to 70% of people vaccinated.

Dr Harris said any vaccine recommended will need to be provided to people in the highest categories first, including frontline workers as well as people with underlying conditions simultaneously around the world.