THE OMICRON variant “will become dominant in the UK”, 专家说, amid concern it will spark a surge of cases in the unvaccinated.
A fresh wave of Covid is looking most likely to grow in January or February, once the strain has gotten a foothold in the UK.
Experts say it could be enough to put pressure on the NHS, given that five million people are unvaccinated, 和 奥米克戎 may potentially weaken vaccines.
In the most impacted parts of South Africa, where the strain was first detected, there has been a “huge increase” in admissions, officials say.
NHS pressure and hospital numbers is the most crucial metric the Government uses to consider lockdowns.
Prof Christina Pagel, a mathematician and professor of operational research at University College London, 告诉太阳报: “By January, it’s very likely we’ll have a new dominant variant, which is Omicron, and everything we know about it says it is worse – we don’t know by how much, but it’s worse.
“We have really high cases with Delta now, even with vaccines and our booster programme going quite well.
“So adding something worse onto a situation that’s already quite volatile, I do think it’ll put pressure on the NHS.
“For the unvaccinated, I think January and February will be the riskiest time of the month since the start of the pandemic, because there will be a lot of infection around and not very much protection, and everyone will be out and about mixing.”
Omicron is looking to be faster-spreading than Delta, based on data from South Africa where it has become the most prominent strain in less than a month.
The mutated virus has been detected just 59 times in the UK so far. But it’s early days, and public health officials say it is expected cases will rise significantly moving forward.
Scientists estimate that one in 300 新的 infections are now due to the super-mutated bug, up from one in 1,000 around a week ago, based on indicators in Covid tests.
Prof Pagel said: “We won’t notice it in the case numbers probably until the end of December.
🔵 阅读我们的 Omicron 变体直播博客 最新消息
“But it will come, and it will dominate, and it could be a real problem.
“The more we can slow it down, the more people we can get boosted, and that’s basically the best defence we have.”
“IT WILL FIND YOU”
But she warned that people without a jab cannot rely on the hope those inoculated will protect them.
There is early indication that boosters will be able to slash the risk of individuals getting seriously unwell.
然而, the vaccinated can still pick up and carry the virus, passing it on to others, including those with zero antibodies.
Even if those without a jab have natural immunity from prior infection, data shows they are likely to be reinfected with the super mutant strain.
Prof Pagel, a member of Independent Sage, 说: “I think it’s very likely even if you’re boosted you can pass it on to people. So if you’re unvaccinated, you can’t rely on other people not giving it to you just because they are vaccinated.
“It will find you.”
An excellent 80.8 per cent of people over the age of 12 in the UK have had a second dose, while more than a third are triple-jabbed.
But there are still 20 per cent of people yet to get one dose. Some areas are significantly worse off than others.
For example in Camden, Hackney, Luton, 莱斯特, 伯明翰, Manchester and Coventry, 你可以要求任何东西的那种 30 和 40 per cent of residents still don’t have one 冠状病毒 vaccine dose.
Prof Pagel warned that “if you’ve had a previous infection, you can’t rely on that either”.
Scientists in South Africa have reported that Omicron has a “substantial” ability to swerve immunity in people previously infected with the virus.
Their study estimated the risk of reinfection when Omicron was circulating was up to 2.4 times higher than in previous waves.
Prof Andrew Preston, The Milner Centre for Evolution and Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, said it signals those with vaccine immunity will also have weakened protection.
他告诉太阳报: “We expect to see a similar pattern emerging with the vaccinated, in that Omicron is more able to infect vaccinated people than Delta.
“This is just infection. The big unknown is what the consequences of this infection is.
“The highly infectious nature of Omicron means it spreads more easily. So everybody is at greater risk of exposure to it.
“We suspect that vaccination and particularly boosted people will have greater resistance to infection, even if it’s less than against Delta.
“所以, unvaccinated people with the lowest resistance will contribute more to spreading. This could well show up as a surge of infection among the unvaccinated.”
Prof Preston said whether to use lockdowns again may become an issue if the disease – driven by the unvaccianted – spills significantly into the most vulnerable, which is a “key worry”.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday pleaded with Sun readers to get their Covid booster vaccines to “turbocharge” their immunity.
他写了: “Because while our scientists are still hard at work assessing the new variant, we do already know that the best way of keeping it at bay is to get vaccinated and get boosted.
“So book your booster as soon as the NHS says it is your turn, and make sure your friends and family do the same.
“We want to offer every adult in the UK a booster jab by the end of next month.”
Professor Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, said accepting your booster invite was “the best present you can give” to family and friends and keep them safe at Christmas.
He wrote for The Sun: “If Omicron does affect the protection from our vaccines after two doses, then the best response for now is to get boosters (a third dose) into arms.”
The Government today said it has “no plans” to make vaccinations mandatory or use lockdowns for only the unvaccinated – as has been the case in other European nations.
Asked if jabs could ever be made compulsory, the Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters: “We’ve set out our policy on this and we’ve said it’s not something that we would look to introduce.
“You’re aware of the changes we made in terms of social care settings and for NHS workers, given the importance of protecting the most vulnerable in our society. But there’s no plans above and beyond that in that regard.”
On whether there could be separate lockdown measures for the unvaccinated in future, the spokesman said: “I think you can look back at the restrictions we’ve had previously and the fact that we’ve never introduced something along those lines.”