(ORDO NEWS) — Grimly members of the British government’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAGE) argue that the next variant of COVID could kill one in three infected people.
Scientific advisers warn Boris Johnson that his ongoing waiver of final rules due to the pandemic next week could cause a “rapid” rise in cases and spawn a deadly coronavirus mutation.
SAGE consultants said that the appearance of a milder version of “Omicron” was “an accident.” Experts warn against the risk of loosening covid restrictions, which are still needed due to uncertainty over long-term immunity and future variants of the virus.
Boris Johnson’s top scientific advisers fear that lifting the remaining covid rules and restrictions next week could leave Britain facing a variant that would kill up to a third of the people it infects.
While the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is set to unveil his “living with COVID” strategy on Monday, SAGE experts have expressed concern about the prospect of a new mutant strain of coronavirus, according to the Daily Mail.
Documents released since the group’s last meeting, just a day after Prime Minister Johnson signaled he intended to lift all remaining lockdowns in England, warned that any sudden change in covid rules could accelerate the pandemic and cause a “rapid” rise in cases .
One paper being discussed by SAGE, which looked at potential scenarios that could emerge over the next few years, dismisses Omicron’s milder nature as a “random” event. It also claims that the notion that viruses evolve and become weaker is a “common misconception.”
British government scientific advisers have warned of a “real possibility” that there could be a variant as deadly as other coronaviruses known to infect humans, such as MERS, which has a 35 per cent fatality rate. The expert panel stated that mutations are more likely when the virus is in high circulation.
Referring to the document in its protocol, SAGE warns that the scenario the scientists have discussed before remains a “valid” possibility. But the report also acknowledges that it was just as realistic to assume that the virus would mutate and become less deadly over time.
Other experts accused SAGE of trying to support a “project fear campaign”, saying that people would be “horrified” by some of the speculative scenarios presented and should be kept under wraps.
Professor Keith Willison, a biological chemist at Imperial College London, told MailOnline that any variant with a fatality rate close to 35 percent is “highly unlikely given what we know and have experienced so far.”
Meanwhile, the British Medical Association, which brings together doctors, said the lifting of all COVID-related restrictions is “not based on current data”, arguing that the incidence rate is still “exceptionally high”.
Dr Chaand Nagpol, chairman of the board of the British Medical Association, called Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to lift the remaining anti-COVID measures “premature”. He told The Guardian: “There was clearly no data-driven guidance and no consultation with medical professionals.”
Dr Nagpole went on to warn that the number of cases remains high: an Office for National Statistics study found that one in 20 people in England were infected with the virus last week alone.
But official data shows that the UK Omicron wave continues to fizzle out, with the outbreak narrowing again across the board by the end of the week. The UK has a further 47,685 cases, 158 deaths and 1,280 virus-related hospitalizations.
Three new documents from the last Feb. 10 meeting of the influential Inception Advisory Group have now gone public, and three others were released last Friday, including one warning that lifting the remaining restrictions would “raise concern.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement last week was widely seen as a desperate ploy to appease conservative anti-lockdown hardliners and fend off a flurry of signals of no confidence in the head of government after a spate of allegations of illegal parties on Downing Street.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Confederate National Health Service, said “now is not the time to take risks,” arguing that the government should not “wave a magic wand” and pretend the virus is gone.
In papers published today but discussed at the SAGE meeting on Feb. 10, the Pandemic Influenza Modeling Science Panel (SPI-MO) subcommittee stated that simulations conducted by the University of Warwick showed that lifting remaining restrictions could increase transmission of the virus by 80%. percent.
The scientists wrote: “While the change in behavior after the lifting of restrictions was previously gradual, a sudden change, such as stopping testing and isolation, could lead to a return to the rapid growth of the epidemic.”
Experts criticize Scandinavian countries for lifting coronavirus restrictions
SAGE modeling now predicts that by next month, COVID deaths could fall below 100 per day on average, and hospitalizations could fall below 500.
But the scientists warned that these projections “may underestimate the short-term trajectory of hospitalizations” if transmission increases or BA.2, a sub-variant of Omicron that outperforms its predecessor, will prove to be more contagious, the data show.
Advisors to the New and Emerging Respiratory Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) have warned that it is likely that the next variant of the coronavirus could be as dangerous as Alpha and Delta, which caused waves of infections last winter and summer.
Experts said there was a “real possibility” that a deadlier variant could emerge either through mutations or as a hybrid between the two emerging variants – in a process scientifically known as recombination. It can kill 10 to 35 percent of the people it infects, according to data from earlier coronaviruses like MERS, they say.
In another scenario, experts said COVID could be transmitted to animals and mutate before returning to humans.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, originated in an animal host — probably a bat — before it somehow gained the ability to spread to humans.
However, experts at NERVTAG acknowledged that the virus is likely to become “less virulent” over the next few years. They said this would happen when he “fully adapted” to humans, which would prevent him from becoming seriously ill.
Leading scientists also warned that it is “likely” that a variant resistant to antiviral drugs, drugs used to prevent the spread of infection, could emerge. To avoid this, they say, drugs should be distributed “carefully” to immunocompromised people and used only in “emergency situations.” The UK has already bought 5 million doses as part of its ‘living with Covid’ strategy.
The document states: “We caution that the milder symptoms in humans associated with the Omicron variant compared to previous variants are likely an accidental event.”
The next variant is likely to achieve dominance in the UK and globally and is likely to have the same pathogenicity (risk of serious disease) as the previous variants. The loss of virulence as viruses evolve is a common misconception.”
Scientists believe that the next variant may not necessarily come from Omicron, despite the fact that it makes up the majority of cases worldwide, but rather from a different strain of the virus.
Other scientists have already predicted that probably no option will be able to return the UK to the same position it was in in March 2020 when the coronavirus first appeared.
And even some SAGE scientists have already urged Britain to start living with the coronavirus in the same way as with the flu. Professor Graham Medley, No10’s chief fashion designer, warned that the virus “cannot remain an emergency forever.”
Last month, he said: “At some point this should stop being an emergency, but it’s more likely to be a phase-out rather than an active point in time where someone can declare an end to the epidemic.”
And Professor Keith Willison, a biological chemist at Imperial College London, told MailOnline that the “terrifying” SAGE scenario is presented as “a real possibility.” But “there is no way to assess the likelihood of a new deadly vaccine-resistant strain, and SAGE is aware of this, but let’s continue the project’s fear campaign,” he said.
Professor Willison added: “I would say this scenario is unlikely given what we know and have experienced so far. These scenarios should of course be discussed privately among SAGE experts, but I don’t think they should be published in some kind of official document that might scare non-specialists.”
Meanwhile, Professor Robert Dingwall, a former government adviser on COVID, told MailOnline that while “anything is always possible,” historically viruses “usually evolved to be less dangerous.” However, he noted that “nothing says they should always do this.”
Meanwhile, according to the Daily Mail, the number of Britons concerned about COVID has fallen to its lowest level since October.
An Office for National Statistics poll found that only 43% of Britons said they were somewhat concerned about Covid during the week leading up to Feb. 13. It’s also down from a peak of 66% in December when Omicron took over.
Fifteen per cent of Britons said they were not at all concerned about the virus, while seven per cent of respondents said they were still very concerned about the virus. The survey, which included 5,000 households, also showed that one in six Brits (17%) were still working from home over the same period.
It is believed that free PCR tests, which are currently available to anyone with symptoms of the virus, may also be canceled from next month. COVID testing has been at the heart of the UK’s strategy to deal with the pandemic, allowing people to check if they have the virus and need to isolate.
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