While most experts are suggesting that Omicron variant is the leg of COVID-19, the World Health Organization has said that there’s no guarantee that the future strains will be milder. According to Maria Van Kerkhove of WHO Covid-19 technical lead, the real question scientists and researchers need to answer is whether or not the future variant will be more deadly.
Last week, over 21 million cases of COVID-19 infection were reported to the WHO. This has set a new global record for weekly cases from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, Van Kerkhove said. While the Omicron variant appears to be less dangerous than previous strains of the virus, the number of new cases is crushing hospital systems in several countries.
“The next variant of concern will be more fit, and what we mean by that is it will be more transmissible because it will have to overtake what is currently circulating,” Van Kerkhove said.
“The big question is whether or not future variants will be more or less severe.”
She warned against buying into theories that the virus will continue to mutate into milder strains that make people less sick than earlier variants, the report said.
“There is no guarantee of that. We hope that that is the case, but there is no guarantee of that and we can’t bank on it,” she said, noting that people should heed public safety measures in the meantime.
“You won’t have to wear a mask forever and you won’t have to physically distance, but for now, we need to keep doing this,” Van Kerkhove said.
Moreover, the next variant of the coronavirus may also evade vaccine protections even more, making the available vaccines even less effective.
According to Dr Mike Ryan, WHO’s director of emergency programmes, the virus will continue to evolve before it settles into a pattern. He said it will hopefully settle into a low level of transmission with potentially occasional epidemics. It could become more seasonal or may only affect vulnerable groups, the report said.