One of the researchers behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine warns that the next pandemic could be more contagious and more deadly, unless more money is set aside for research and preparations to combat new viral threats
LONDON – One of the researchers behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine warns that the next pandemic could be more contagious and more deadly unless more money is set aside for research and preparations to combat new viral threats.
In excerpts released before a speech Monday, Professor Sarah Gilbert says the scientific advances made in the fight against deadly viruses “must not be lost” because of the cost of fighting the current pandemic.
“This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods,” Gilbert is expected to say. “The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious or more deadly or both.”
Gilbert speaks Monday night as she delivers this year’s Richard Dimbleby talk, named after the late TV station who was the BBC’s first war correspondent and a pioneer in television news in Britain. The annual televised lecture features addresses from influential people in business, science, and government.
Gilbert is set to urge governments to redouble their commitment to scientific research and pandemic preparedness, even after the threat of COVID-19 declines.
“We can not allow a situation where we have gone through everything we have been through and then discover that the huge financial losses we have suffered mean that there are still no funds for pandemic preparedness,” she said. “The progress we have made and the knowledge we have gained must not be lost.”
The government has tightened requirements for travel testing and isolation and excluded visitors from South Africa, where the variant was first identified, and several other African countries, including Nigeria.
Health Minister Sajid Javid said on Monday that more than 300 omicron cases had been confirmed in the UK, some without links to international travel, and “we can conclude that there is now community transfer across multiple regions in the UK.”
Much is still unknown about the variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart vaccines.
“We can not say with certainty at this time whether omicron has the potential to knock us off our path to recovery,” Javid said.
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