A new coronavirus variant that does more damage than Omicron is likely to hit the UK as Covid-19 moves towards seasonal peaks for at least another two years, Professor Sir Chris Whitty has warned.
The UK’s chief medical adviser said that the public should “roll with it” and accept that more surprises will come rather than hoping for an “end point”.
He said the Covid-19 crisis “is not over” and that rising hospitalisations as a result of the current wave triggered by Omicron subvariant BA.2 will probably continue for at least another two weeks.
When asked how quickly the pandemic will end and become endemic, Sir Chris said: “The term ‘endemic’ is massively misused, including by people who have got medical qualifications.
“The pandemic is going to become, over time, less dominant steadily, but we’re going to have a significant problem with it in multiple parts of the world for the rest of our lives. Let’s have no illusions about that.
“I’m expecting it to be probably in the UK seasonal, but interspersed, at least for the next 2-3 years by new variants while it’s still evolving essentially to adapt to humans, which may occur in between seasonal peaks.
“So I think we should just accept that that is what we’re going to deal with and just roll with it, rather than expect some end point.”
Speaking to the joint Local Government Association (LGA) and Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) conference on the second anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, Sir Chris said society had largely accepted the current situation.
“People are getting very high vaccination rates, people are getting cared for. A lot of people are still wearing masks. People are testing and they’re isolating [if they are positive] and I hope that will continue for some time,” he said.