A leading health expert addresses fears of the emergence of new Covid-19 variants

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As Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the world continue to battle the Covid-19 pandemic for going on a third year, officials continue to combat fears of what pandemic fatigue will mean for the response to the virus that has proven deadly for millions.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, says the question is not whether there will be another variant but whether the new forms will be more or less deadly.   

In fact, she said the next variant “will be more transmissible because it will have to overtake what is currently circulating”.

“The big question is whether future variants will be more or less severe,” she the doctor explained, noting that the world could see a seasonal pattern as the virus develops and creates strains with more immune escape, making vaccines less effective.

Dr Van Kerkhove says while everything is still not yet known about this new coronavirus, methods proven to work against transmission of the virus should still be employed.

“What we do know is what works – vaccines work. Vaccines prevent people from needing hospitalisations and prevent people from dying. We know that physical distancing works in terms of reducing the spread, we know that wearing of a mask actually prevents spread, reduces the opportunity to spread from one person to another, we know improving ventilation reduces the spread, we know avoiding crowds [but] that does not mean we shut down society but what we’re looking for is a layered approach and we really need everybody’s help,” she stressed.

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