A familiar face during the pandemic, Dr Chris Smith is a top virologist from Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge and has made a name as a straight-talking expert, appearing on radio and TV regularly since Covid began.

Appearing on The Jeremy Vine Show this morning, the host started by putting to Dr Chris that if you get the new variant of Covid-19, Omicron, some people are already saying it's not that serious.

And Dr Chris replied the government has taken a precautionary approach as. "the real big problem at the moment is lack of information."

He paid tribute to the fast-acting South African scientists who first identified, highlighted and quickly shared their data.

But, he continued, that what we don't have currently is the "virology of the new variant to work out what scale of threat it does or doesn't pose." He said: "What a lot of people are doing is acting in a very precautionary way to safeguard things on a just in case basis."

Top virologist Dr Chris Smith
Top virologist Dr Chris Smith

Jeremy echoed the concerns of the nation saying there were two worrying issues at hand: "Whether when you get it, it hospitalises you and kills you, or whether it swerves the vaccine and that we don't really know much about either."

But Dr Chris's reply was fairy reassuring, saying: "We don't know at the moment. But the demography of people catching in South Africa is much lower.

"Meaning the average age of the people catching it is much younger and, as we know, a younger person has a much more trivial run-in with the virus than an older person with other diseases."

"Do you think we'll end up going back in to lockdown?" Jeremy asked.

And Dr Chris said: "I don't think we will. And the reason is because the vaccines we're using were made against the parent coronavirus that came out of Wuhan two years ago. It's very likely that the vaccines we've got, and the resistance and protection that that will confer... well my instinct tells me that will protect us against this new variant.

"We may see a surge in cases, but that may not turn into consequences."