While many countries are easing their pandemic restrictions, some scientists are warning that the next COVID variants could, in fact, be more deadly and cause more severe illnesses than what has been seen with the Delta and Alpha strains of the virus.

Countries such as Sweden declared that the pandemic is over last week, and the U.K. is planning on rolling back the last of its COVID restrictions next week.

Even the leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci in the U.S. has said the country is moving toward the end of the “full-blown” phase of the pandemic, so COVID-related restrictions may soon be lifted.

“As we get out of the full-blown pandemic phase, which we are certainly heading out of, these decisions will increasingly be made on a local level rather than centrally decided or mandated," Fauci said in an interview with Financial Times. "There will also be more people making their own decisions on how they want to deal with the virus.”

But some scientists disagree and warn that more serious COVID variants could be coming despite cases of the virus declining and the dominant Omicron strain having milder symptoms.

David Nabarro, a special envoy on COVID-19 for the World Health Organization, told the Guardian, “There will be more variants after Omicron and if they are more transmissible, they will dominate. In addition, they may cause different patterns of illness, in other words, they may turn out to be more lethal or have more long-term consequences.”

Warwick University Professor Lawrence Young also thinks that the new variants could be more severe as he told the Guardian, “The idea that virus variants will continue to get milder is wrong. A new one could turn out to be even more pathogenic than the Delta variant, for example.”

Nabarro urged leaders to plan for the possibility to see an uptick in COVID cases again, telling the news outlet, “It would be prudent to encourage people to protect themselves and others consistently.

“An approach that does not do this would be a gamble with potentially severe consequences. I cannot see any upsides to such a gamble. The pandemic has a long way to go and – as is the case since it started – people and their leaders will influence its long-term impact through actions they take now.”

Globally, there have been over 5.8 million COVID-19 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

India is currently battling a fast-growing Covid-19 outbreak, as scientists investigate whether a new virus variant is helping fuel the surge
Representational image. India is battling a surge in mucormycosis cases amid Covid-19 outbreak AFP / Sajjad HUSSAIN