A new variant of Covid that could kill one in three is a “real possibility,” according to leading scientists working for the U.K. government.
Papers released on July 31 by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) warn that the future strain could be as deadly as MERS, which has a 35 percent lethality rate. And a new strain is on the way.
A government expert panel has said that the likelihood of the virus mutating is highest when the corona is most prevalent — as is currently the case in the U.K. And the flip side of Britain’s hugely successful vaccination campaign seems to be that a higher level of immunity in the country could help speed up the process.
Scientists have said the U.K. should introduce booster vaccine doses for the winter, minimize new variants coming from abroad, and consider culling animals, including mink and even cats, that may contain the virus to prevent a mutant strain.
Scientists revealed the threat of a supermutant variant in an article on potential scenarios that could arise in the not-so-distant future. Experts said a future strain could be resistant to vaccines if it emerges from a combination of the shot-resistant beta variant “South Africa” with the more transmissible variants “Kent” Alpha or “India” Delta.
The process, known as recombination, could result in a strain with “increased morbidity and mortality.”
The team acknowledged that the vaccines should work unless there was a superpowered mutation that made the shots much less effective at blocking serious disease, which many experts said was unlikely. But they said additional lethality could be expected “even in the face of vaccination, since vaccines do not provide absolute immunity.”
According to scientists, the prospect of a more lethal variant is a “real possibility” and will have a huge impact on further increases in the number of deaths in Britain. Likewise, the experts warned that while the U.K. appears to be emerging from its current third wave of pandemics, the government should not relax.
Dr. Philippa Whitford, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said: “This report, which should have sent shockwaves through the U.K. government, was instead quietly ignored because of parliamentary recess. But the recommendations and comments made by SAGE demonstrate the simple reality that we have not yet defeated this virus.”
The Scottish National Party MP says: “The government must not stick its head in the sand or it risks undoing the progress we have made over the last eighteen months.”
Professor Martin McKee, a public health expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, adds: “These harsh words from the government’s own advisers underscore what many of us have warned about and confirm that obstacles still remain to be overcome. The government cannot become complacent, it must continue to support next-generation vaccine development and prioritize reducing infections here at home to reduce the likelihood of another domestic variant.”
SAGE warned that the virus could infect many different animals, including mink, which have had to be killed by the thousands in Denmark. The group also warned that other species may need to be further culled or vaccinated so they don’t become reservoirs for the virus. This group includes cats, dogs, mice and rats, which can be infected with Covid.