Whilst we are gradually welcoming the relaxation of pandemic restrictions, the emergence of viral variants is certainly throwing a curveball for scientists and politicians alike. Since the COVID pandemic began, Professor of Clinical Microbiology Ravi Gupta (OB 1987-94) - who says he is more of a Virologist despite his title! - has been focusing his research on increasing understanding of the virus and advising the government on dealing with respiratory viruses as a member of NERVTAG (New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group).
In light of the recent variant emerging in India, Ravi and his team at University of Cambridge have been examining how the variant behaves, and he was recently interviewed by several major media channels - FT, Sky News, Channel 4, The Guardian - and attended a press briefing to offer his expert advice.
The variant of most concern at the time of writing this is the Indian variant, which according to Ravi is “being looked at with a degree of worry. It illustrates that we mustn't take anything for granted with the virus. Although we have fantastic vaccines that prevent serious illness and death, we still need to be on our guard while we have not reached the highest levels of vaccination of the population”.
Ravi, previously named in the TIME 100 most influential people worldwide list for 2020, was this month elected to the Fellowship of The Academy of Medical Sciences - another prestigious award - and it would appear that he is certainly living up to these accolades. His work in this field is proving to be invaluable when it comes to understanding more about the three strains of the variant, particularly B.1.617.2 which appears to be reinfecting vaccinated individuals.
Remaining calm and collected, when Ravi was asked the million dollar question about the likelihood of all legal limits on social distancing being removed from 21 June, he diplomatically answered: “Well it’s going to be a difficult decision and it’s 50/50 I think.”
Only time will tell what happens for the final stage of the roadmap, but we’re sure we’ll continue to see Ravi on our screens and hear about his positive work in this field.
Indeed, Ravi was back in the news after giving his views on 31st May on BBC Radio 4's Today programme - see also https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57304515