Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, the creator of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, warned that the highly mutated Omicron variant, which has already been detected in more than 30 countries, could be even worse than the coronavirus pandemic which has already killed more than 5 million people around the world.
In a report published Sunday night, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reported 86 additional Omicron cases, bringing the total number of cases to 246.
Earlier this week, scientific advisers to ministers in the UK told them that the new variant was spreading rapidly in the country. They also said that the travel rules that start on Tuesday would not be enough to prevent a potential wave of infections.
In a lecture that will be broadcast on the BBC, Gilbert said that the next pandemic might be even more deadly, despite the destructive nature of the two-year pandemic which had already infected more than 265 million people.
The virus will not be the last one to threaten our lives and livelihoods, she said. The truth is, the next one could be more disastrous. According to her, the next one may be more contagious or lethal, or both.
Gilbert noted that scientific advances made and knowledge gained from research fighting against coronavirus should not be lost.
In the face of all we have gone through, we cannot allow ourselves to be in such a situation that no funds are available for pandemic preparedness, in spite of the great economic losses we have sustained, she warned.
To defend against pandemics, she said, we must invest in people, research, manufacturing and institutions just as we invest in armed forces, intelligence, and diplomacy to defend against war.
Beginning on Tuesday, all passengers arriving in the UK will have to show proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow test carried out no earlier than 48 hours before departure. Additionally, the UK will add Nigeria to its travel red list on Monday.