'God help us': Chilling warning about future pandemic threat

With hope that Australia has begun to turn the tide against coronavirus, the NSW Chief Health Officer has warned of future threats.

There has been much discussion about the Doherty Institute’s recommendations for 80 per cent of the population over 16 to be fully vaccinated before Australia can finally end lockdowns and border closures.

But as NSW reached six million doses of vaccine, which is almost a week ahead of target, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant told reporters even with 80 per cent vaccinated authorities will still have to “calibrate” and modify restrictions on the go.

“It may be that we actually have indoor mask-wearing for years in certain settings,” Dr Chant said.

"We may have factors that you're only permitted to go to certain high-risk venues if you're vaccinated and show proof of vaccination. The world is grappling with how we co-exist with Covid and this virus may throw us curve balls. You know, we've got the Delta variant.

“God help us if we have another variant.

"This is not a one size fits all.”

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant at a press conference to provide a COVID-19 update in Sydney.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant speaks to reporters during a press conference. Source: Getty Images

Concerns new variant will emerge from vaccine-starved nations

Experts have been urging wealthy countries to do more to supply vaccines to poorer countries as the longer they go unvaccinated, the more likely a worse variant could emerge.

Speaking to German outlet Blick this week, Swiss Immunologist Dr Sai Reddy said leaders "have to prepare" for a new emerging variant in 2022 that could pose a "big risk".

Covid-22, as he dubbed it, "could get worse than what we are witnessing now".

As those warnings mount, the head of The World Health Organisation Dr Tedros Adhanom told reporters overnight he wants countries to delay booster shots until poorer countries with lower vaccination rates can become protected.

"I call for a moratorium of boosters, the position that we have is to delay the use of boosters, and there is actually debate, and no consensus on whether boosters are really effective," he said.

Workers of cement plant receives their COVID-19 vaccine in Antipolo City, Philippines.
Workers of cement plant in Antipolo City, Philippines, receive vaccinations after the Lambda variant was found in the country. Source: Getty Images

Delta could evolve, become more deadly

There is also the possibility that the Delta variant will change for the worse. In fact, the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said some of the existing variants could potentially merge.

If that does happen it could see the virus become as deadly as Middle East respiratory syndrome or MERS which had a 35 per cent fatality rate after being discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Covid in Australia is currently at about a one per cent fatality rate.

However, that’s not to say this is exactly what will happen. The paper written by SAGE is suggesting what is possible and not inevitable.

People arrive to be vaccinated at the New South Wales Health mass vaccination hub in Homebush in Sydney, Australia.
People arrive for vaccinations at the hub in Homebush, Sydney, on Monday. Source: Getty Images

Even if Delta remains as harmful and contagious as it currently is, many experts have recommended re-opening at 80 per cent vaccinated is too much of a risk.

Covid zero has never seemed further away, particularly after NSW recorded 753 new cases on Tuesday – and a total of more than 2000 community-acquired cases over 72 hours.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said a zero Covid strategy “has never been Australia's plan” but some experts have pushed back, regardless of how unlikely it may be to now eradicate the virus.

Physician Dr Anthony Moore urged Australians not to give up on eradicating Covid completely, saying Mr Morrison's "low case" strategy could have terrible consequences.

"If this virus is allowed to circulate it will find opportunities to mutate and all this will do will threaten the effectiveness of the vaccines and we are back at square one," he wrote on Twitter.

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