Boosters urge in face of viral Omicron as Gove warns of ‘worrying situation’

A booster dose carries a risk of symptomatic infection with Omicron variant “significantly reduced,” according to health officials, who have urged all who qualify to make sure they receive a third stab.

It comes as experts warn the new variant could become mainstream in the UK in mid-December, with a Cabinet Minister saying things are being kept “under review” on the measures. measures to tackle the contagion.

Analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines provide the same level of protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron compared to Delta.

But preliminary data, looking at 581 people with confirmed Omicrons, shows that the effect appears to be “significantly increased” during the initial period after the booster dose, which provides about 70 to 75% protection against infection. have symptoms.

The findings come as daily Covid-19 cases hit their highest level in almost a year, and UKHSA predicts that, if current trends continue, the UK will exceed one million infections by the end of the month .

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove warned of a “deeply disturbing situation” after holding a Cobra meeting on Friday afternoon to discuss the latest data and a coordinated response among the four countries.

As of 9am on Friday, there were an additional 58,194 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the government said.

The last time a higher daily number was reported was on January 9, when 59,937 cases were recorded.

An additional 448 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant have been reported across the UK, bringing the total to 1,265 cases.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunizations at UKHSA, said while their initial data should be treated with caution, it indicated that “a few months after the second stab, there is increased risk acquired the Omicron variant than the Delta strain”.

She added: “The data shows that this risk is significantly reduced after booster vaccination, so I encourage people to get a booster shot when eligible.”

(Graphics PA)

(Graphics PA)

Speaking to broadcasters, Mr Gove said the Omicron variant was doubling every two to three days in the UK “and possibly even faster in Scotland”.

He added that 30 per cent of cases reported in London were the new variant and warned that evidence suggested Omicron was “more likely” than in the past. Covid variant to “likely” to lead to hospitalization among fully vaccinated individuals.

Scotland’s First Minister Sturgeon Nicola warned of the possibility of a “tsunami of contagion” from the new variant – and as a result she could not rule out more restrictions north of the border.

But No 10 still insists that there are “no plans” to go any further with the measures in the UK, amid reports that proposals are being drawn up for a Plan C, with even stricter rules. more slot.

Mr Gove said the current approach being taken was “proportionate”, but acknowledged that “we really need to keep things under review”.

“Action is absolutely necessary, and when new data comes in, we look at what action we need to take in the face of it,” he said.

The Guardian reported that the Minister of Health Sajid Javid came out from the UKHSA earlier this week warning that even if Omicron leads to less serious illness than Delta, it still risks overwhelming the NHS with 5,000 people being hospitalized each day.

It said leaked advice said “strict action” would be needed on or before December 18 if the variant’s doubling time remained at 2.5 days, although the paper added that those Such a restriction could entail nothing more than saying the measures would bring the R number – which represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect – below 1.

Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, whose data was instrumental for the UK’s March 2020 lockdown, told The Guardian that projections suggest Omicron could be “remarkably overwhelming”. counting the NHS, reaching a peak of 10,000 people a day. “.

He said such a figure could be reached “around January” but added that it is based on assumptions around the variant’s ability to obtain existing protection and the premise that it is similar to Delta. about the severity of the disease it causes – something that is still unknown.

“Even the best-case scenario involves a few more admissions per day than we do now – we’re at around 700 right now,” he said.

New guidance scheduled to go into effect Wednesday will allow care home residents to only be allowed three guests and one essential care worker, as part of new measures to protect the sector. from the spread of the new variant.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the move was “to strike a balance between the current Covid-19 risk and the need to keep people safe following clinical advice”.

From Friday, in the UK, the legal requirement to wear a mask has been extended to more indoor spaces including museums, galleries and community centres.

People must wear face coverings in more settings such as cinemas and theaters (PA)

(PA Archive)

There will be guidance back to work from home from Monday and mandatory Covid passports for major venues from Wednesday.

The new regulations are due to be debated and voted on in the Commons next week – and with Labour’s backing, they are certain to be passed despite the prospect of a major Conservative uprising.

Asked about the expected Tory rebellion, Mr Gove said he “trusts” people to consider the proposals “seriously, soberly and thoughtfully”, adding: “And I also confident that people will conclude that, if balanced, the action is right.” Boosters urge in face of viral Omicron as Gove warns of ‘worrying situation’


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