The next Covid-19 variant will be more contagious than Omicron, but there is no guarantee that future strains will be milder, according to the World Health Organization.
According to Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, the real question scientists must answer is whether it will be more lethal, as reported by CNBC.
According to Van Kerkhove, approximately 21 million Covid cases were reported to the WHO last week, setting a new global record for weekly cases of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
While Omicron appears to be less virulent than previous strains of the virus, the sheer volume of cases is wreaking havoc on hospital systems around the world.
“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.”
According to the report, she warned against believing theories that the virus will continue to mutate into milder strains that make people less sick than earlier variants.
“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.
Furthermore, the next Covid variant may be able to evade vaccine protections even further, rendering existing vaccines even less effective.
The virus will continue to evolve before settling into a pattern, according to Dr Mike Ryan, WHO’s director of emergency programmes. He believes it will eventually settle into a low level of transmission with occasional epidemics. According to the report, it could become more seasonal or only affect vulnerable groups.