Professor David Heymann, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said the UK is probably one of the countries with the highest levels of population immunity.
Talking at a Chatham House online briefing on Tuesday, Heymann said that countries in the northern hemisphere have “varying stages of the pandemic,” and the UK is probably “the closest to any country of being out of the pandemic if it isn’t already out of the pandemic and having the disease as endemic.”
He said population immunity is already high and “seems to be keeping the virus and its variants at bay, not causing serious illness or death.”
Heymann cited the Office for National Statistics as saying that about 95 percent of the population in England and a little less in other parts of the UK already have antibodies either from vaccination or from natural infection.
The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which caused the COVID-19 pandemic, is now “functioning more like an endemic coronavirus than one that is a pandemic,” he said.
The leading expert said there would be resurgences of COVID-19 in the future and more variants will arise, though it was not clear of what severity.
“We’re fortunate in that we have vaccines which can be modified very rapidly, and put into production very rapidly to deal with an escapee,” he said.
Other British experts have voiced similar views on the trajectory of the disease.
Clive Dix, former chairman of Britain’s vaccine taskforce, said over the weekend that mass vaccination against COVID-19 should come to an end and the UK should focus on managing it as an endemic disease like flu.
Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and the lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study app, said last month that the symptoms of the Omicron variant “feel much more like the common cold.”
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, also added on Dec. 28 that COVID-19 will become “just another cause of the common cold.”
But an expert working for the European arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said COVID-19 is “still a way off” from becoming endemic.
Dr. Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer at the WHO Regional Office for Europe, told a press briefing on Tuesday that the conditions for endemicity are “not being met” as “the virus is not settling into a stable rate of transmission and there’s still a lot of unpredictability.”
PA Media contributed to this report.