Professor Deenan Pillay was speaking in a week when the death toll in India topped 400,000, which grim pictures showing large numbers of bodies burning on funeral pyres and widespread hospital bed shortages. And the scientist, who as well as being Professor of Virology at University College London is an adviser with Independent Sage, warned there was no room for complacency given the interconnected nature of our world.
He told Express.co.uk: “Currently India is going through its biggest wave, the second wave, effectively.
“It’s obviously deeply concerning – viruses don’t really recognise international borders.
“This just demonstrates that infections do go in cycles in different environments.
“Of course, what determines how much is spread depends on how people are living close proximity, you know, in India, which of course is usually populated in the cities.
“This tells you you know, why there’s this huge surge as well as the sort of complacency that there’s been.”
In contrast to India, infection rates in the UK are falling rapidly, with Boris Johnson earmarking June 21 as the day on which all restrictions will be lifting.
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“The most optimistic among this, you know would say, well, maybe, a maximum a year, before we’ll need or we’ll need boosters need to be developed against the new variants.
“And then of course the other thing is, as you know because there are infections anywhere in the world, that new variants can start to emerge.
“As long as there are these infections anywhere in the world they will then come to the UK.
“And in that context, I think it is. It’s therefore an obligation on all of us to feel that what’s happening around the world will also come back to bite us unless we keep our levels of concern and carefulness that going.
“What I mean by that is making sure we come out of lockdown but ever so carefully making sure that testing and tracing in the UK.”
Asked how long it might be before things got back to normal, Prof Pillay said: “I think this will be needed for many, many months if not years.
“I think one of the longer-lasting things this is going teach us is about just care with travel.
“We sort of got into the mode of thinking the world’s our oyster and anyone could go anywhere.
“And I think we need to be a little bit more humble now about how, how our individual actions, whether it’s in the UK whether we wear the mask or not and so forth, all of these things contribute to the greater good, or the greater harm.”
Authorities today reported 401,993 new cases in the previous 24 hours, the highest daily count globally, after 10 consecutive days over 300,000.
Deaths from COVID-19 jumped by 3,523, taking the total toll in India to 211,853, according to federal health ministry data.
The world’s biggest producer of COVID-19 vaccines has a limited number of shots available, worsening a surge in infections that has overwhelmed hospitals and morgues while families scramble for scarce medicines and oxygen.