It is a “realistic possibility” that a new Covid variant could emerge which could kill more than a third of the people it infects.
In such a scenario, the virus could kill 35% of those it infects.
The panel, which advises the government on its pandemic response, warned that such mutations are most likely to occur when the virus is widely spread – as it is currently in the UK.
They also noted that the virus may mutate in such a way that allows it to evade current vaccines, although this is unlikely.
The emergence of such strains could lead to a return to tighter restrictions and lockdowns, while delivering another huge economic blow to the country.
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The scientists suggested the new strain could could be resistant to vaccines if formed from the jab-resistant ‘South Africa’ Beta variant along with the more transmissible Alpha or Delta variants.
Dr Philippa Whitford, vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, urged those in charge to pay attention to the alarming report.
“This report, which should have sent shock waves through the UK Government, was instead quietly snuck out among a glut of reports during parliamentary recess,” she told Mail Online.
“Recommendations and comments made by SAGE bring home the simple reality — that we have not yet ‘defeated’ this virus.”
In another report, scientists warned that the protection that vaccines give against coronavirus infection, and potentially severe disease, is highly likely to wane over time.
As a result, vaccine campaigns will continue for years to come.
The document, titled “How long will vaccines continue to protect against COVID?”, was written by prominent virologists and epidemiologists from Imperial College London, University of Birmingham and Public Health England.
Britain has approved and is using three shots -Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – in a mass vaccination programme that started in December 2020.
Real world data show that these vaccines protect with 95% or greater effectiveness against the Alpha variant that dominated in Britain in early 2021, the scientists said, although the ability of the shots to protect against infection and onward transmission was lower.
They said it might be expected that vaccine effectiveness would remain high for severe disease but effectiveness against mild disease and infection could fall off over time.
Anecdotal reports from Britain and Israel, which rolled out a comprehensive early campaign, supported that concept, they said.
Israel will begin offering a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to people aged over 60, a world first in efforts to slow the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Since the emergence of the Delta variant, the Israeli health ministry has twice reported a drop in the vaccine’s efficacy against infection and a slight decrease in its protection against severe disease.