Expect More COVID Mutations, Surges Ahead—WHO Expert

The World Health Organization has warned of more COVID-19 mutations, despite encouraging initial studies suggesting that the highly transmissible Omicron variant is less severe than previous strains of the virus.

Speaking to Sky News on Monday, Dr. David Nabarro, a WHO special envoy for COVID-19, said there was "light at the end of the tunnel" for Britain in tackling the coronavirus.

"Looking at it from a U.K. point of view, there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel…I think that it's going to be bumpy before we get to the end," he said.

"So even though it's possible to start imagining that the end of the pandemic is not far away, just everybody be ready for the possibility that there will be more variations and mutations coming along, or that there will be further challenges, other surges of even Omicron coming."

Nabarro pointed out that children did not get very ill from the disease, and that "we're going to have children acting as vectors of the virus for some time to come."

He warned that the public still needed to be "respectful of this virus."

"Do what you can to stop transmitting it. Do what you can to protect others from being affected by it. It's not the common cold," Nabarro said.

"I know people would like it to be but it's a virus that has still some really unpleasant features. Let's do our best to protect people from it if we possibly can."

On Sunday, the U.S. surgeon general warned that Omicron had not yet peaked in America. In an interview with CNN's State of the Nation, Dr. Vivek Murthy said "we shouldn't expect a national peak in the coming days" and that the next few weeks will be "tough."

Omicron has fueled a new wave of COVID cases in the United States, with the seven-day average of new daily cases being 801,903 as of Sunday, according to data from The New York Times.

As of Sunday, 142,388 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 nationwide, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the highest number yet. The previous peak was 142,315 reported on January 14, 2021.

The new variant appears to have peaked in some states, such as New York and New Jersey, but has not in many others.

Despite these worrying numbers, there have been several studies that suggest the new variant is less deadly and Moderna Inc. co-founder Noubar Afeyan told Bloomberg on January 14 that the pandemic may go into endemic phase this year.

Dr David Nabarro WHO
Then-senior United Nations System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, David Nabarro, speaks at the press briefing on the Avian Flu update during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank (IMF/WBank) annual meeting in Singapore on September 17, 2006. Nabarro warned of more COVID-19 mutations, despite initial research suggesting the highly transmissible Omicron variant is less severe than previous variants of the virus. Roslan Rahman/Getty