Vaccine-busting Covid variant a matter of ‘when, not if’, WHO expert warns

Joe Murphy and Nicholas Cecil
·2-min read

A deadly Covid variant that can beat the current vaccines is a matter of “when, not if”, a leading scientist from the World Health Organisation warned today.

With India and Brazil and other countries gripped by surges caused by new mutations, Dr David Nabarro said the disease was proving to be “ferocious” and Britain must not relax social distancing measures.

“I want to be clear with you that I personally expect that variants will appear in different parts of the world that are capable of beating the protection offered by the vaccines,” he said on Sky News.

“It’s not the case of if, but when. So I’m saying to everybody that I work with, we do have to maintain our respect for this virus. We can beat it, but it means maintaining the physical distance and wearing masks, and also being really good about isolating. 

Watch: India variant under investigation

“We’re going to have to go on treating it with respect, I’m afraid, for quite a lot of months to come.”

Vaccines will have to be modified routinely to “keep track” of the new variants stringing up around the world, he said. At the same time it was vital to vaccinate people in other countries.

“I just would like everybody to understand, we still got a lot of work to do to get pandemic in the box, and to shut the box, and to feel that we can actually get on with our lives without worrying about it,” he added. “We’ve got to keep the defences up.”

Mr Nabarro spoke out as immigration staff said officers at airports were seeing “thousands of fake pre-departure tests” carried by passengers trying to get into the UK.

The Imperial College expert said border measures could slow down the virus but not stop it.

“Last week, there were more cases than ever before during the pandemic, according to my numbers,” he said. “That means this thing is still ferocious. And we’ve still got to go on battling it.

“And we can do it. You know, people are the solution we’re not the problem, we can get ahead of this virus

Watch: India added to red list as concerns mount over coronavirus variants

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