The next Covid variant may be much more dangerous, cause more illness than Omincron and cause far higher death rates, leading UK scientists say.
Experts are also urging the government to be cautious about lifting the last set of restrictions in England.
Prof Mark Woolhouse, of Edinburgh University said: “The Omicron variant did not come from the Delta variant. It came from a completely different part of the virus’s family tree.
“And since we don’t know where in the virus’s family tree a new variant is going to come from, we cannot know how pathogenic it might be. It could be less pathogenic but it could, just as easily, be more pathogenic.”
His comments were supported by points made by Prof Lawrence Young of Warwick University, who told the Observer: “People seem to think there has been a linear evolution of the virus from Alpha to Beta to Delta to Omicron.
“But that is simply not the case. The idea that virus variants will continue to get milder is wrong. A new one could turn out to be even more pathogenic than the Delta variant, for example.”
Demands are also growing for the government’s senior Covid advisors – Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance – to show the evidence that supported the decision to end all pandemic restrictions.