There were a number of updates yesterday (7 December) about the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant of Covid-19. These come from Government sources across the UK, and summarise official scientific data. Read on for more.
The first updates come from the UK Government, and from a statement released by No. 10 after the cabinet meeting today. This confirmed that, as we already predicted, Omicron is “more transmissible than Delta” based on early impressions. This is backed up by both the devolved authorities in Wales and Scotland, who both confirm that there is a high likelihood that Omicron is much more infectious than Delta, and that it should definitely be a cause for concern. The Welsh Health Secretary also stated that there will likely be a very large wave of Omicron cases in January 2022 within Wales, and this is very likely to be the case in England as well.
It was also confirmed on Monday by the UK Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, that community transmission of Omicron is present in the UK. This means that cases in the UK are no longer due to people coming back from abroad and then testing positive, but that they are due to people infecting others within England.
The Guardian is reporting that a new version of Omicron has been discovered, which appears to have different mutations to the current version. Named BA.2, it is being dubbed a ‘stealth version’ due to its ability to evade the tests currently being used to track the spread of Omicron. It appears to only be discoverable by much more detailed methods, which are harder to do quickly. There is also a chance that the two versions could behave differently, which would necessitate two different approaches to tackle them – likely to be a challenge, given the difficulties dealing with one version is currently posing for the Government. The version is said to be so different, it might soon be classified as a new variant of Covid-19 completely. This is concerning, as two variants emerging in quick succession with no warning suggests that the virus is mutating much faster than was originally thought.
However, these announcements also came with a lot of non-information and denials. The most significant of these is that the Government has no plans for introducing any kind of lockdown measures at present. Shockingly, the No. 10 spokesperson stated that at the cabinet meeting today there had been no discussion about introducing ‘Plan B’ lockdown measures of any kind. This means that not only are there no plans to introduce lockdown measures that would help keep people safe, but the Government are not even talking about the potential for them.
There is also no verifiable information available about whether Omicron will make you more ill if you catch it. Early reports from South Africa show their hospitalisation numbers rapidly increasing as Omicron spreads there, but it is not yet clear whether this is due to increased illness caused by the variant, or simply due to the increased numbers of infected people.
As ever, BuDS will update you as more information emerges about Omicron. Keep an eye on our website and social media pages to make sure you don’t miss anything.