Experts and health professionals on virus predictions, the spread of Omicron, the government’s Plan B restrictions, and that false sense of security that vaccines have ended the pandemic...

First published in December 2021.


... on virus predictions.

Dr Deepti Gurdasani, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology, Statistical Genetics, Machine Learning, Queen Mary University of London:

“If you feel that SARS-CoV-2 evolution has been unpredictable, might I suggest that the issue may be with your predictions, rather than an unreliable virus. After all, many scientists warned we’d be exactly where we are, but were attacked and ignored. And continue to be ignored.

“Seriously, there have been so many studies of virus evolution in humans, and in mice, and all of them have shown a highly adaptive virus. In mice, it became more pathogenic with passaging. And real-world evidence from every single variant so far. How can we be surprised each time?

“Oh, and are journalists, and media outlets ever going to consider the history of the accuracy of predictions of the ‘experts’ they platform. Because more often than not I see people who have repeatedly been wrong about every single thing so far, given space to be wrong about more.”

— Source: Twitter.


... on the governments Plan B.

Professor John Edmunds, Epidemiologist, Professor in the Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine:

“Nobody wants to have to reintroduce these measures. It’s very damaging for parts of the economy – the hospitality and retail sector, in particular, are going to be affected – but unfortunately, we have to do it.

With the speed of spread of this virus, we may well have really significant numbers of cases by Christmas.

“I suspect that whatever we do now, we are unlikely to overreact. Given the rate of community transmission, travel restrictions were not really going to do much now.

“If you are worried about the time at which the NHS might start to get very stressed, then halving the hospitalisation rate means that buys you two to three days. I think it’s really silly to suggest this is good news; it couldn’t be further from that. This is as bad news as you can possibly get, quite frankly.

“I think over the next two months we’re going to see a really rather large wave of Omicron. We are going to get a large number of cases, and it will result in a large number of hospitalisations, and unfortunately, it will result in a large number of deaths. I’m pretty sure of that.”

— Source: Royal Society of Medicine webinar.

Dr Deepti Gurdasani, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology, Statistical Genetics, Machine Learning, Queen Mary University of London:

“People working from home makes a lot of sense as it can massively reduce contacts at a population level.

“Having said that, the other measure that has the largest effect is reducing gathering sizes. For me, it makes no sense to be instituting working from home policies and saying go ahead with parties. That is frankly ridiculous.

“What we are doing now is very unlikely to be sufficient.”

— Source: The Guardian.

Professor Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology, Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change, University College London:

To tell people to work from home than to say to go to Christmas parties is contradictory and lacks coherence.

“It’s a high-risk situation and it undermines the message to work at home where you can and to be cautious. It’s a problem for both of those reasons.

“Let’s learn from the past. This is the third time of delaying measures when we have clear exponential growth of infection.”

— Source: The Guardian.

Professor Francois Balloux, Director of the UCL Genetics Institute:

“I suspect the Omicron variant wave will have a major impact on future policy. To me, it feels like the most critical event during the pandemic as concerns our future attitude to covid (and other similar potential threats).

“If Omicron wave turned out to be roughly equally bad in terms of hospitalisations and deaths to the previous Alpha and Delta waves, it would vindicate harsh pre-emptive interventions and likely normalise them in the foreseeable future.

“Conversely, if it turned out to be much milder than anticipated, I would predict the public mood to turn against harsh restrictions, with a possible major backlash against authorities, which might make it more difficult to decisively respond to potential future threats.

“Anything in between, with the Omicron wave being bad, but not as bad as Alpha and Delta, will likely create further social divisions and entrench deep resentment among many people in the community.

The Omicron wave, (and its response to it) feels like the ultimate lose-lose-lose situation, but some outcomes still feel worse than others, either now, or in the future.”

— Source: Twitter.


... on the projected Omicron infections that could lead – between 1 Dec and 30 Apr – to a peak of 2,000+ daily hospital admissions, 175,000 hospital admissions and 24,700 deaths.

Dr Nicholas Davies, Assistant Professor of Mathematical Modelling, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine:

“These are early estimates, but they do suggest that, overall, Omicron is outcompeting Delta rapidly by evading vaccines to a substantial degree.

“If current trends continue, then Omicron may represent half of UK cases by the end of December.”

— Source: The Guardian.

Dr Rosanna Barnard, Research Fellow in Infectious Disease Modelling, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine:

“In our most optimistic scenario, the impact of Omicron in the early part of 2022 would be reduced with mild control measures such as working from home.

“However, our most pessimistic scenario suggests that we may have to endure more stringent restrictions to ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed. Mask-wearing, social distancing and booster jabs are vital, but may not be enough.

“Nobody wants to endure another lockdown, but last-resort measures may be required to protect health services if Omicron has a significant level of immune escape or otherwise increased transmissibility compared to Delta.

“It is crucial for decision-makers to consider the wider societal impact of these measures, not just the epidemiology.”

— Source: Sky News.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor for the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA):

We are worried and we’re right to be worried because we don’t have enough data to narrow those predictions and those models down to the best finest detail yet, and it takes time to do that.

“I still think it will take another two weeks before we’re clear on whether the severity that South Africa have reported in some scenarios, but not in all, is going to be reflected here.

“We have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And I think our job is to highlight that this is a big wave. It’s coming straight at us.

“If we see even half the severity that we saw with Delta then we’re facing a very large number of hospitalisations and potential deaths.”


... on the urgency of vaccinating children.

Dr Peter English, retired consultant for Communicable Disease Control:

“There is now ample evidence that the vaccine is both safe and effective in children. I would expect all European countries to start to roll out vaccination for this age group, where they haven’t already started to do so.

“Whether the UK will follow is another matter. The JCVI failed to recommend vaccination of older children despite clear evidence that they – and society – would benefit, so it may do the same with younger children.

I hope that the UK’s MHRA and JCVI will rapidly catch up with much of the rest of the world, and approve, recommend, and get on with vaccinating children from the age of five.”

— Source: Sky News.


... on protecting children in schools.

Professor Stephen Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology, School of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, Member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) subcommittee on behavioural science:

“We argued for ventilation of schools in the summer of 2020.
Over Christmas 2020.
Over summer 2021.
Had action been taken at any of these points, the systems would be well in place by now and our children would be protected.”

— Source: Twitter.


... on the reintroduction of mandatory face covering.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the Council of the British Medical Association:

“The reintroduction of mandatory mask-wearing is the right thing to do.

“However, for this measure to be fully effective it is important the Government extends this mandate to all public indoor and closed settings.

“This includes the hospitality industry – such as for staff in restaurants – where the public tend to spend long periods of time in close contact with others. We only have a small window of opportunity to get this right to ensure that we don’t lose control of this new variant, which has the potential to have a devastating impact on the health service.”

— Source: The Mirror.

Professor Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics, University of Bristol, Member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI):

It goes on making sense that people should recognise that this virus has not gone away, and anything that they can do to reduce the risk to themselves, their families, and the people they’re in contact with makes good sense.

“So I’m very pleased that people are now being encouraged to wear masks when indoors at the moment. Lateral flow tests are a very good way of finding out whether or not you’ve got the infection. So, people should carry on doing those.

“But at this particular time, it is a time for caution.

It’s a time for people to be careful to stay at home when they can, to avoid contact with others, just to help us get through this difficult period.”

— Source: Sky News.


... on this endless pandemic.

Dr David Nabarro, WHO Director-General’s Special Envoy on COVID-19 Preparedness and Response, Co-Director and Chair of Global Health at the Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London:

“I can understand people saying ‘enough’ – this virus just goes on and on, doesn’t it?

“Of course I’m very anxious about what I’m seeing right across Europe, including now in western Europe. These are very large numbers of cases but it’s also the speed with which they’re increasing – it really is a cause for concern.

“We are going to have to go on resisting this virus and we do it by making it hard for the virus to get from one person to the other. We do it with face masks and also with avoiding breathing in the air breathed out by others.

“If we keep that personal protection going, especially in confined spaces, the evidence is really strong that this reduces the size of the surges and the peaks.

“Please everybody, take [vaccination] really seriously – this virus has got so many surprises in store for us.”

— Source: Sky News.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization:

“We are concerned about a false sense of security that vaccines have ended the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccines save lives, but they do not fully prevent transmission. So please be careful and:
Wear a mask.
Keep distance.
Avoid crowds.
Open windows.
Clean hands.”

— Source: Twitter.

PMP Magazine


PMP News reporting.


  • Text: This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 12 December 2021.
  • Cover: Adobe Stock/freshidea.

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