We're nowhere near end of COVID pandemic, top scientist warns

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Shoppers on Oxford Street in central London, following the further easing of lockdown restrictions in England. Picture date: Tuesday June 8, 2021.
Shoppers on Oxford Street in central London during the coronavirus pandemic. (PA)

A top scientist has warned that the world is closer to the beginning of the COVID pandemic than to the end.

Speaking to CNBC on Monday, former World Health Organisation (WHO) epidemiologist Dr Larry Brilliant said new strains of coronavirus will continue to emerge unless the global population is vaccinated.

He said: "I think we're closer to the beginning than we are to the end and that's not because the variant that we're looking at right now [Delta] is going to last that long.

"Unless we vaccinate everyone in 200 plus countries, there will still be new variants.”

He predicted coronavirus will become a "forever virus" like influenza.

Read: British tourists in France will be banned from attractions and cafes if they can't prove double vaccination

It comes as the US follows the UK in experiencing a surge of cases driven by the spread of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India.

On 21 July, the UK’s seven-day rolling average rate hit a peak of 702.99 per 100,000 people compared with the US's rate of just 120.66, according to Our World In Data.

The UK case rate then plummeted to 386.03 by 4 August then saw a slight rise to 394.47 on 7 August.

The UK and US have seen diverging case rates as the Delta variant spreads (Our World In Data)
The UK and US have seen diverging case rates as the Delta variant has spread. (Our World In Data)

Meanwhile, the US has seen its rate surge before slightly levelling off at 328.56 as of 7 August as the Delta variant spreads.

Brilliant said the variant could be “the most contagious virus we have ever seen in living memory” but that the “good news” is the vaccines are holding up.

Watch: Nightclubs reopen as Scotland lifts most coronavirus restrictions

He added that as long as some people aren’t vaccinated, more strains will emerge.

“I do caution people said this is the Delta variant and we have not run out of Greek letters so there may be more to come," he said.

Brilliant also said that while there is a low probability that a "super variant" resistant to vaccines will emerge, the world should do “everything possible” to prevent it.

He said: “That means get everyone vaccinated – not just in your neighbourhood, not just in your family, not just in your country, but all over the world."

The WHO has repeatedly warned that the world must get to grips with COVID on a global level to effectively fight the pandemic and prevent the emergence of new variants.

WHO leaders have slammed countries for “vaccine nationalism” and warned wealthier countries that vaccinating their entire populations was putting the world on the brink of a "catastrophic moral failure".

Watch: Federal government 'monitoring' Delta variant risk to parts of the US economy

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