Bullish Dominic Raab insists today that government’s coronavirus plan ‘Plan B’ remains unnecessary in spite of increasingly dire warnings concerning the Omicron virus.
In a series of interviews, the deputy PM expressed optimism about Christmas and said that the successes of the vaccine program meant tougher restrictions were not necessary.
The defiant stance came after Theresa May was cheered to the rafters by Tory MPs last night as she accused ministers of putting businesses at risk by ‘stopping and starting sectors of our economy’.
According to the ex-premier, the new mutation appears to be less dangerous and that Covid must be taught to the nation.
However, fresh doubts about the fate of the festive season were raised this morning as experts warned Omicron is spreading faster in the UK than expected.
Eminent epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector claimed infections with the variant were doubling every two days and that there were up to 2,000 cases already — five times more than the official count.
King’s College London’s chief symptom-tracking scientist estimated that Britain would have Omicron cases in less than ten days, compared to other African countries.
Dr Jeffrey Barrett, head of Covid surveillance at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said Omicron was likely to become the UK dominant strain ‘within a matter of weeks’ rather than months like initially hoped.
Today, Mr Raab rejected any suggestion of adding more restrictions like orders not to travel from home and vaccine passports. According to BBC Radio 4, ‘We don’t believe Plan B is necessary,’ Raab said on BBC Radio 4’s Today show. ‘Why? The success of our vaccine program.
Mr Raab was more definitive than Boris Johnson who yesterday refused to rule out tightening restrictions over the festive period, merely insisting that Christmas will be ‘better’ than last year.
Scientists anticipate booster jabs providing high protection against Omicron disease and death.
No10 revealed last week it would increase the number of booster jabs to 500,000 per day, and provide a third dose for all 53 million British adults before the beginning of January in order to combat the coming wave.
But the ‘turbocharged’ campaign already appears to be stalling with just 290,000 delivered across Britain. Each day, an average of 378,000 doses are given.
Dominic Raab, in interviews with several people, sent a positive note on Christmas. He said that the successes of the vaccine program have made it ‘not necessary’ to put tougher restrictions into place.
On average, 46,000 Covid patients are diagnosed each day in the UK. Covid Genomics UK Consortium data (COG UK) shows that around 1 in 666 cases, or 1.4%, is affected by the new strain.
Last night, Theresa May said that Omicron seemed to cause less severe illness than the other variants. The Government should learn to live with Covid. A vaccine every year was better than “stopping and beginning” the economy, which can lead to businesses closing down and job loss.
This image has caused fear in scientists and prompted ministers at the UK to accelerate the rollout of booster vaccines. In England, mask mandates have returned. Experts fear that the super-mutant Omicron Omicron variant will be the most dangerous and vaccine-resistant yet. A graphic released by the top national variant monitoring group shows that the Omicron strain has nearly five times more modifications on its spike protein than the Delta strain.
Scientists predicted just yesterday that it would take until mid-January for Omicron to outpace Delta but Monday saw the biggest single day jump in cases of the mutant virus yet. Omicron has been confirmed to have infected a further 90 people within the last 24 hours.
Dr. Barrett explained that it is now possible to say that this variant has spread faster than the Delta version in the UK. That’s something I thought was not clear until very recently. It’s likely to overtake Delta (Delta), probably within a few weeks. I’m pretty certain of that.
Even though it’s milder than Delta there are concerns that Omicron could cause a tsunami of hospital admissions, similar to the January peak.
This virus is capable of infecting former Covid patients quickly and experts from the UK Government expect that it will render existing vaccines less effective by making them 40 percent more difficult to stop infection.
Omicron could infect more people than it can, according to experts. Even if only a few need hospitalisations are possible.
Asked whether Omicron could infect more people but make fewer people sick, Professor Spector told BBC Breakfast: ‘If early reports pan out – we don’t absolutely know this, we’ve got hardly any data in this country where we have high rates of vaccination – but if we assume that it is not more severe and possibly milder than Delta, but it’s much more transmissible…
“This means that people will pass the virus on to their friends and family twice as often than if they get it from a group. It’s good news because there are fewer people who need to go to the hospital. This partly is due to high vaccine rates.
It also means you may get more diseases and deaths as almost everyone infected is re-infected.
“This means it is possible for the entire country to be worse news than for individuals. There is absolutely no excuse for complacency.
In South Africa, there’s been a dramatic rise in Covid infections in the past fortnight after Omicron was alerted to its existence on November 24, 2009.
South Africa’s case numbers have risen dramatically since Omicron first became known. This month the country saw 358 new cases per day, as opposed to 6,381 currently registered. Although the daily rate is lower than Tuesday’s, this is due to the low number of people who were screened yesterday. The positivity rate — the proportion of all tests conducted that are confirmed Covid cases — rose to a record 26.4 per cent
The virus was found in 175 South Africans, an increase of 121.5 percent on the number of 79 patients admitted last Monday. In a single week, there are 3,517 people in hospitals with the virus. This is an increase of 51.1 percentage. The graph below shows the weekly Covid hospitalisations
The number of Covid cases increased 1800% in the week to 6,381 in just 24 hours. While this is lower than the 11,000 yesterday, there were still tens and thousands more tests.
Professor Spector who manages the Covid ZOE symptoms study said the UK might have Omicron cases in 10 days than other countries on its travel red list.
He stated that the official estimate is about 350 Omicron case, but because there are not many Omicron cases in the testing, the actual numbers would be between 1,000 and 2,000.
‘And we are expecting this to be doubling about every two days at the moment, so if you do your maths – say assumed it’s 1,000 at the moment, and you think it’s going to be doubling every two days, you can see that those numbers are going to be pretty (high) certainly in about 10 days time.’
Dominic Raab (Deputy Prime Minister) ruled out further Christmas restraints as he celebrated the success of Britain’s vaccination program in overcoming the Omicron crisis.
According to him, Today’s program consists of a series of interviews in which he stated that ‘We are doing all that is possible to address the risks that we face and that it’s done so in a proportionate manner that does not create additional risks or other challenges.
When asked why Plan B was not being implemented by the government, he replied that he didn’t believe it necessary. Why? It’s because of the effectiveness of the vaccine program. We’ve got 118 million doses dispensed.’
Dr. Barrett from the Wellcome Institute’s Covid-19 genomes initiative said there are still many things that can be done to determine if more curbs should be implemented.
Today, he said: “The most critical question, of all the cases that will be likely to occur in large numbers, how many will eventually lead to serious disease?”
Dr Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Trump’s office, has suggested that this virus variant could be less severe or milder than previously known variants.
“I believe what we’ve seen in South Africa so far is consistent with that. But it’s too early to know. The reason is that this variant appears to be capable of infecting individuals who have either been vaccinated previously or have already been infected.
“And, we know that the second or breakthrough infection of people who have been vaccinated tends to be less severe than those with more serious cases. Omicron can cause severe infections in people with mild to moderate immunity. However, we don’t yet know if Omicron will be more severe than Delta.
Doctors in South Africa have insisted that most patients suffer only mild illness, with the US’ top Covid expert Dr Anthony Fauci claiming yesterday it ‘doesn’t look like there’s a great degree of severity to it’.
British scientists have warned, however, against the notion that it’s a weaker strain. They warn that its ability to infect more people could cause significant problems for the NHS.
One mathematical modeller predicted there could be up to 3,000 hospital admissions per day in the UK in January if Omicron takes off domestically — compared to the 4,000 per day at the peak last year.
Jeffrey Barrett stated that although the strain might be less severe, it may still pose a threat to the NHS.
“A problem could be that, even though that is a very small fraction, it can still lead to problems.
“It sort of has a bunch of mutations within its genome. Some of them we’ve already seen, others that we only anticipated, to cause it to bind tightly to human cells in order to infect them.
“So it probably transmits and has also developed mutations at many positions that are well-known to hold the viruses’ antibodies.
These have been altered, so it’s very likely that the virus will not be as well neutralized by vaccines.
“Again we’ll be seeing that with kind of laboratory data soon, but the speed it’s moving through both vaccinated nations and countries with a lot more recent infection such as South Africa strongly suggest that it could evade some immunity.