Omicron Shows its True Colours in The U.K.!

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As fears grew over the threat posed by the highly mutated Omicron variant, detected in more than 30 countries, Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert cautioned that while it was increasingly obvious that “this pandemic is not done with us”, the next one could be worse, reports Guardian.

Omicron in UK

One of their scientific advisers said that the new variant was spreading pretty rapidly in the UK, and travel rules starting on Tuesday would be too late to prevent a potential wave of infections. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on Sunday night reported 86 new Omicron cases, taking the total identified so far to 246.

As of 9am on Sunday there were another 43,992 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK. A further 54 people died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.

Delivering the 44th Richard Dimbleby lecture, due to be broadcast on the BBC on Monday, Gilbert said that despite the destructive nature of a two-year pandemic that had already infected more than 265 million people, the next one might be more contagious and claim even more lives.

Covid vaccine

Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford whose team developed the Covid vaccine now used in 170 countries, said the scientific advances made and knowledge gained in research fighting against the coronavirus must not be lost.

“We cannot allow a situation where we have gone through all we have gone through, and then find that the enormous economic losses we have sustained mean that there is still no funding for pandemic preparedness,” she said. 

Less effective vaccines

Gilbert said the new variant contained mutations already known to increase transmissibility of the virus and that antibodies induced by vaccination or previous infections might be less effective at preventing infection with Omicron. 

But she also said reduced protection against infection “does not necessarily mean reduced protection against severe disease and death”. 

Travel restrictions

From Tuesday, all passengers arriving in the UK will be required to show proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow test taken no earlier than 48 hours before departure. Nigeria will also be added to the travel red list on Monday.

But Prof Mark Woolhouse, of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), said the new travel rules were too late to make a material difference. He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I think that may be a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

“If Omicron is here in the UK, and it certainly is, if there’s community transmission in the UK, and it certainly looks that way, then it’s that community transmission that will drive the next wave.”

Level of severity 

Though the emergence of the new variant has caused alarm worldwide, Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease official, told CNN “thus far it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it” but he added that it was too early to draw definitive conclusions and more study was needed.

The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said the NHS would be in a difficult position if the Omicron variant were to trigger a surge in hospital admissions. Dr Katherine Henderson said hospitals were already struggling to cope. 

Vaccine resistance 

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer has made his strongest intervention to date to criticise those resisting taking the vaccine, after the Guardian reported that unvaccinated patients are dominating ICU beds.

He also said the government needed to radically boost efforts to get third jabs into arms. New analysis by Labour reveals the total number of booster vaccinations currently being administered remains significantly below the number of jabs that were being delivered at the same point in the first vaccine rollout earlier this year.

The vaccine rollout

Separately, millions of people are being urged to get a flu jab by Friday to maximise protection over Christmas, as figures reveal more than half of all those who are pregnant or have underlying health conditions have still not been vaccinated.

The UKHSA is encouraging eligible people to have the vaccine by 10 December to allow it take full effect before the festive season.

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Source: Guardian

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