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Omicron rise prompts tougher measures in England

The Omicron variant is spreading so rapidly in the UK that government experts predict 1,000-2,000 hospitalisations per day, prompting stricter control measures in England

Coronavirus vaccine

The number of infections from the Omicron variant of SARS-Cov-2 is ‘increasing rapidly’ in the UK with clear evidence of community transmission, says the government’s advisory body the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

At its meeting this week, the expert group said the spread of Omicron ‘appears to be following a similar trajectory’ to that seen in South Africa, where hospital admissions are being reported.

‘With the speed of growth seen, decision-makers will need to consider response measures urgently to reduce transmission if the aim is to reduce the likelihood of unsustainable pressure on the NHS,’ advised SAGE.

In response, England has moved into the so-called Plan B measures that include the wearing of face masks in ‘most public indoor venues, other than hospitality’, the use of the NHS COVID-19 Pass in some settings and a move to home working where possible.

Most of these measures have already been in place for some time in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with England previously taking a more relaxed approach.

At present, England is seeing just under 700 hospital admissions per day from COVID-19, well below the peak of last winter when hospitals in England were admitting nearly 4,000 people per day with the virus.

However, SAGE’s modelling suggests that, without new measures, the number of hospitalisations from Omicron may reach as many as 2,000 per day in England by the end of the year, although it added that there were many unknown factors involved.

Data suggested that new infections with the Omicron variant were doubling every three days and that it was highly likely that Omicron would replace Delta as the dominant variant within ‘a few weeks’, said the government’s scientific advisers.

Several data sources point to Omicron possessing a clear ‘growth advantage’ over Delta but the underlying mechanisms behind it ‘remain unclear’.

Addressing the issue of whether vaccines and natural immunity would protect against the Omicron variant, SAGE said it expected more data on infections ‘over the next week’, although it would also need data on hospitalisations to ‘fully understand the efficacy of different immune histories’.

However, SAGE concluded that ‘vaccine and immune effectiveness against severe disease is likely to remain higher than protection against infection’.

The pound dropped to its lowest level in more than a year against the dollar after the new coronavirus measures were announced and also fell against the Euro.

Article by
Hugh Gosling

9th December 2021

From: Healthcare

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