4 Experts Unpick Why Our Future With Covid Is Still So ‘Unpredictable’

Covid infection rates are climbing once again across the UK but – with no social distancing restrictions nor self-isolation obligations in place – our future living alongside the disease looks more unclear than ever.

With one in 15 people in the UK currently struggling with symptomatic Covid according to the Zoe Covid Study and as the latest Omicron sub-variant – BA.2 – becomes dominant worldwide, it’s clear the pandemic is not over.

The number of hospital patients in England with Covid is rising once again

PA GraphicsPress Association Images

The number of hospital patients in England with Covid is rising once again

Here’s what the experts are saying about what our future with Covid will realistically look like:

Is a more dangerous variant ahead?

There has been some speculation that Covid will evolve to become increasingly mild, with each new variant triggering less intense symptoms.

But Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, claimed that the virus is likely to continue being a problem for the next two to three years – and that Covid’s mutations in that time will be unpredictable.

As he pointed out, the new(ish) sub-variant of Omicron, BA.2, is already 80% more transmissible than the original Omicron strain, enabling it to become the most dominant Covid form around the world.

Speaking to the joint Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Public Health in March, Whitty explained: “We could well end up with a new variant that produces worse problems than we’ve got with Omicron – and Omicron problems are not by any means trivial, but Omicron is largely de-risked by vaccination in those people who are vaccinated.”

It will be ‘unpredictable’ for up to ‘two years’

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UKHSA (UK Health Security Sgency), told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “The pandemic takes its own course and it will remain unpredictable to a large extent for the next say 18 months to two years, I think is general consensus, and we will have to be continuously alert to monitor those rates and to respond appropriately to any new variants.”

However, Harries added: “As with other respiratory viruses such as flu, it’s not the same disease, but it’s a similar sort of comparison, at some point we have to come to terms with that.”

She also said that the key point is making sure people come forward for booster vaccinations to keep up high levels of immunity across the country.

There may be no Covid ‘end point’

Professor Whitty echoed a similar message to Harries when he emphasised that Covid will gradually become “less dominant” as time goes on but we should expect it to be a problem “for the rest of our lives”.

He claimed: “I’m expecting it to be probably in the UK seasonally, but interspersed, at least for the next two or three years by new variants while it’s still evolving essentially to adapt to human, which may occur in between seasonal peaks.

“I think we should just accept that is what we’re going to deal with and just roll with it, rather than expect some end point.”

He added that “we’re still in the foothills of understanding” what long Covid is. Whitty pointed out that even if there were no more infection waves from this point onwards, “we will still be living with the effects of long Covid for some time.”




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