Omicron curbs needed for TWO MONTHS, top health boss warns amid fears variant behind 200,000 cases

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Fears that Britain could be plunged into a de facto January lockdown were raised today because so many Britons will be catching Omicron and forced off work. 

Boris Johnson‘s spokesperson said it was ‘valid’ to assume the UK could face a million daily cases of the super-mutant by January, the equivalent of one in every 66 Britons catching the disease each day.

The chief medical officer Chris Whitty gave a stark update on the Covid situation to Cabinet today, where he was said to have warned such astronomical infection rates will spark staff shortages in pubs, restaurants and shops.

There are now concerns of a repeat of the ‘Pingdemic’ that shut down swathes of the economy over summer, only on a much wider scale because of how infectious the new strain is compared to Delta.

It came as the Department of Health reported 59,610 overall coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, up more than 30 per cent in a week and the highest number since the peak of the second wave on January 9. 

Daily deaths — which are a lagging indicator— were down 17 per cent in a week with 150 victims today, while latest hospital data shows there were 793 last Friday, up 11 per cent.  

Public health officials estimate the true number of daily Omicron infections is around 200,000 and that the mutant virus is doubling every two days.

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UKHSA, said vaccine passports, working from home and other curbs to tackle Omicron will be needed for ‘the next four to eight weeks’.

Health chiefs are already calling for tighter restrictions in London — where Omicron is already dominant — and Scotland today tightened its curbs, limiting social mixing to three housholds in the run up to Christmas.

 

 

The Omicron Covid variant spreading at a ferocious pace in the UK has become dominant in London barely two weeks after it was first detected, health chiefs revealed today.

Professor Kevin Fenton, the capital’s director of public health, said data suggested the super-strain was already behind at least one in every two new infections in the city, up from 44 per cent just yesterday.

As the country’s major transport hub, London quickly became England’s Omicron epicentre after South Africa first raised the alarm on November 24. It is thought to have been seeded in the capital by travellers flying into the UK. 

The capital’s Covid infection rate has spiralled to its highest level since January when stringent curbs were in place, rising 55 per cent in a fortnight from 347 to 537 cases per 100,000 people.

Omicron becomes DOMINANT in London: Capital’s hospital admissions have risen 50% since variant first emerged 

The Omicron Covid variant spreading at a ferocious pace in the UK has become dominant in London barely two weeks after it was first detected, health chiefs revealed today.

Professor Kevin Fenton, the capital’s director of public health, said data suggested the super-strain was already behind at least one in every two new infections in the city, up from 44 per cent just yesterday.

As the country’s major transport hub, London quickly became England’s Omicron epicentre after South Africa first raised the alarm on November 24. It is thought to have been seeded in the capital by travellers flying into the UK. 

The capital’s Covid infection rate has spiralled to its highest level since January when stringent curbs were in place, rising 55 per cent in a fortnight from 347 to 537 cases per 100,000 people.

And hospitalisations in the city have risen by 50 per cent over the same period, from 90 to 140 admissions a day on average. Deaths remain flat but it can take up to a month for fatalities to start rising due to the time it takes to fall seriously ill. 

Nationally, Omicron is behind one in every five cases but is expected to outstrip Delta before the New Year. For comparison, it took Delta almost two months to take over from the Alpha variant. Omicron is also spreading very quickly in Scotland and South Northamptonshire, data shows.

A spokesman for London’s mayor suggested today they would back controversial local lockdown restrictions in the capital, saying it was better to ‘act now’ rather than wait for the virus to spiral out of control.

But Tory representatives called on ministers to rely on ‘strong vaccine protection’ and ramp up the booster drive, rather than curb people’s daily lives.  

And hospitalisations in the city have risen by 50 per cent over the same period, from 90 to 140 admissions a day on average. Deaths remain flat but it can take up to a month for fatalities to start rising due to the time it takes to fall seriously ill. 

Nationally, Omicron is behind one in every five cases but is expected to outstrip Delta before the New Year. For comparison, it took Delta almost two months to take over from the Alpha variant. Omicron is also spreading very quickly in Scotland and South Northamptonshire, data shows.

A spokesman for London’s mayor suggested today they would back controversial local lockdown restrictions in the capital, saying it was better to ‘act now’ rather than wait for the virus to spiral out of control.

But Tory representatives called on ministers to rely on ‘strong vaccine protection’ and ramp up the booster drive, rather than curb people’s daily lives.  

Nicola Sturgeon today told Scots they could no longer mix in groups bigger than three households, and said social distancing was to return in shops and pubs because of surging Omicron numbers there. But the First Minister said the rule would be relaxed for Christmas Day and there was no reason to cancel plans.

The surging cases in the capital and calls for more restrictions have echoes of last winter when London was the first place to be locked down in the run up to Christmas.

It comes as a major study today suggested that two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine still provides 70 per cent protection against hospital admission and death from Omicron, compared to 93 per cent for Delta. 

The first real-world study in South Africa also estimated the risk of hospitalisation was a fifth lower than with Delta and 29 per cent lower than the original virus.   

The findings lend weight to the theory that the ultra-infectious variant is weaker than previous strains, something which doctors on the ground in South Africa have been claiming for weeks. 

Nicola Sturgeon re-introduced social distancing and asked Scots to cut down on socialising in the run up to Christmas today.

Pubs, restaurants and shops will have to take measures to avoid crowding and queues, the First Minister told Holyrood.

Additionally she asked Scots to limit indoor mixing to just three households. While the advice will not be enforceable in law, Ms Sturgeon announced that allowing staff to work from home where possible will again become a legal duty on employers.

Ms Sturgeon confirmed that she was not seeking to put restrictions on festive events at Christmas itself, although she added that ‘keeping your celebrations as small as family circumstances allow is sensible’.

‘My key request today is this: before and immediately after Christmas, please minimise your social mixing with other households as much as you can,’ she told the Scottish Parliament.

‘However, if you do plan on socialising, either at home or in indoor public places, we are asking that you limit the number of households represented in your group to a maximum of three. And make sure you test before you go.’

Cases of the Omicron variant in England. Areas that had picked up the mutant strain over this fortnight are coloured orange

This map shows areas where the Omicron variant has been detected in England. The orange colour means there are only a few cases, while red and black suggests indicates there are more cases. Yellow means there are no cases

The above maps show areas where the Omicron Covid variant has been detected in England over the two weeks to November 20 (left), and to December 4 (right). Areas where the variant has been detected are not coloured yellow. It shows how it has gone from just one local authority, to about half of the country. Areas with darker colours have detected more cases

The above graph shows the seven-day average for hospital admissions in different regions of England. It reveals that in London (orange) there has been a steady increase

The above graph shows the seven-day average for hospital admissions in different regions of England. It reveals that in London (orange) there has been a steady increase 

This graph shows the Covid infection rate per 100,000 people in England's regions. It also shows there has been a rapid uptick in London (red) while cases remain largely flat in other regions

This graph shows the Covid infection rate per 100,000 people in England’s regions. It also shows there has been a rapid uptick in London (red) while cases remain largely flat in other regions

The above graph shows how Omicron cases are rising across England's regions. PCRs search for three specific genes to tell whether someone has Covid, but with Omicron one of the genes is so mutated - the S-gene - that it does not show up with the tests. Cases with this gene missing are coloured purple above, with the graph showing their numbers quickly increasing

The above graph shows how Omicron cases are rising across England’s regions. PCRs search for three specific genes to tell whether someone has Covid, but with Omicron one of the genes is so mutated – the S-gene – that it does not show up with the tests. Cases with this gene missing are coloured purple above, with the graph showing their numbers quickly increasing

The above graph shows the proportion of cases detected that did and did not have a confirmed S-gene. PCRs search for three specific genes to tell whether someone has Covid, but with Omicron one of the genes is so mutated - the S-gene - that it does not show up. This allows scientists to quickly tell which cases are likely Delta (green) and Omicron (purple)

The above graph shows the proportion of cases detected that did and did not have a confirmed S-gene. PCRs search for three specific genes to tell whether someone has Covid, but with Omicron one of the genes is so mutated – the S-gene – that it does not show up. This allows scientists to quickly tell which cases are likely Delta (green) and Omicron (purple)

Omicron is causing up to a THIRD fewer admissions than Delta and two Pfizer jabs still slash death risk of severe disease by 70% 

Omicron is causing milder disease than Delta in patients in the epicentre of the new Covid variant, the first major real-world study in South Africa confirmed today.

Officials who analysed 78,000 Omicron cases in the past month estimated the risk of hospitalisation was a fifth lower than with Delta and 29 per cent lower than the original virus.  

As a crude rate, Omicron is currently leading to a third fewer hospital admissions than Delta did during its entire wave — 38 admissions per 1,000 Omicron cases compared to 101 per 1,000 for Delta.

The findings lend weight to the theory that the ultra-infectious variant is weaker than previous strains, something which doctors on the ground in South Africa have been claiming for weeks. 

But the reduction in severity is probably not solely down to Omicron being intrinsically milder, according to the South African Medical Research Council which led the analysis. 

Around 70 per cent of South Africans have recovered from Covid already and 23 per cent are double-vaccinated, which has created high levels of immunity. 

The finding will raise hopes that the UK’s Omicron wave will be less severe than previous peaks, despite having an older and denser population. Unlike South Africa, the UK is rolling out booster jabs on a mass scale.

The study also found two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine still provide 70 per cent protection against hospital admission or death from Omicron, compared to 93 per cent for Delta.

While this is more protection than many scientists initially feared, it still leaves 30 per cent of people vulnerable to severe Omicron disease, four times as many as Delta.   Waning immunity from two Pfizer doses was found to offer just 33 per cent protection against Omicron infection, explaining why the country has seen a meteoric rise in case numbers.

She also lashed out at Boris Johnson, complaining that it was ‘not acceptable’ that there was no additional funding yet available from the UK Government to support businesses affected by the measures she is introducing.

The changes – which could well be followed by similar moves in Wales – will further increase the pressure on Boris Johnson in England, with London, like Scotland, an omicron hotspot.

Calls have been made for the introduction of further restrictions in the capital, with the super mutant variant now responsible for half of cases.

The city is still the region of England with the fastest-growing Covid outbreak, according to Government data, with cases growing by up to 48 per cent a week in the worst-hit boroughs.

NHS leaders said No10 needs to be prepared to introduce stricter curbs than the current Plan B if Omicron is on the brink of overwhelming the NHS.

Mr Johnson warned his Cabinet this morning that a ‘huge spike’ of Omicron is coming, according to Downing Street.

But the Prime Minister already faces a Tory rebellion over introducing mandatory face masks and vaccine passports for some venues, measures already in place in Scotland.

Scores of Conservatives have vowed to defy the government whip when new regulations rubber-stamping Covid passes for nightclubs and major events, mandatory vaccination for health staff, and mask use come before the Commons.

Dominic Raab risked inflaming the tensions in interviews this morning as he dismissed ‘overstated’ criticism about the measures to combat the Omicron strain.

But the scale of the rebellion means the embattled PM will almost certainly have to rely on Labour to get the measures through – despite in theory having an 80-strong Commons majority. Several ministerial aides are threatening to quit rather than back the government.

Ministers are said to be examining plans for a further round of restrictions in England that would push it closer towards a lockdown and are sure to watch Ms Sturgeon’s announcement with interest and trepidation.

Meanwhile Britain’s booster drive to beat the Omicron super-variant has been mired in chaos after more than 4.4million attempts were made to book top-up shots on the NHS website and furious GPs warned they had run out of doses.

Health chiefs said 545,000 appointments were secured by 8pm last night, even after the website crashed because so many people logged on. This morning Britons were stuck in up to an hour long queues.

But GPs complained they would not have enough jabs for everyone after being given until 9am to order stocks to meet Boris Johnson’s December 31 ‘boosted or bust’ deadline.



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Denis Ava
Denis Avahttps://allbusinessreviews.org/
Denis Ava is mainly a business blogger who writes for Biz Grows. Rather than business blogs he loves to write and explore his talents in other niches such as fashion, technology, travelling,finance,etc.

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