Experts warn threat of another pandemic 'very real' within next century

Holyrood's Covid-19 Recovery Committee was warned against 'complacency' by experts from two leading universities.

Scottish experts warn threat of another pandemic ‘very real’ within next century iStock

The threat of another pandemic within this lifetime is “very real,” experts have told Holyrood’s Covid-19 Recovery Committee.

MSPs took evidence on Scotland’s pandemic preparedness from Professor Andrew Morris, chair of the Standing Committee on Pandemic Preparedness, and Professor Tom Evans, consultant in infectious diseases at Glasgow University.

Experts told the committee that the level of preparedness had significantly improved in Scotland compared with pre-pandemic levels.

However, the committee heard about concerns over possible complacency amid global economic issues.

Asked how likely another pandemic was in this lifetime, Prof Evans said: “It’s dangerous to make prognostications but I think the threat is very real and not just from something we know about.”

He added: “It depends on how long you live as to whether it’s going to occur in my lifetime or your lifetime, but I think it would be foolish to assume this is not going to happen for another 100 years.

“There’s every possibility that we’re looking at a future pandemic, certainly, within the next 100 years.”

Meanwhile, Prof Morris said changing conditions such as growing populations and climate change mean pandemics are “tilted towards this being a real risk and we should take it seriously”.

However, ministers and health boards have taken significant steps to prepare the country for future pandemics, with increasing data infrastructure and advice systems praised.

Prof Evans said: “We’re certainly in a better place than we were before Covid, without question, we’ve learned so much.

“Across a number of areas, there are clearly a number of things that we need to do better.

“The danger is that that falls by the wayside as other things take precedent, quite understandably.”

But Prof Morris, who is also director of HDR UK and vice-principal of data science at Edinburgh University, said: “I do worry about complacency. The geopolitical and economic pressures are immense globally but we mustn’t forget the pain the pandemic caused.”

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