Omicron has spread so quickly in Britain that everyone will be able to contact it “unless you are a hermit”, an expert said today, amid concerns about the possibility of Omicron being introduced to other people. 

Professor Eleanor Riley, a professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, warned ‘a lot of people’ could still end up in hospital even if the strain proves to cause milder symptoms than Delta.

The variant is causing cases to double every three days in Britain. Health officials are encouraging people to test and to socially disengage to reduce the risk of a Christmas spike. 

Hospitals have already had to start shutting wards after detecting cases, with Raigmore Hospital in Inverness forced to close one of its units after a spike in infections.

According to care professionals, the new rules for care homes almost restored residents to the conditions that they had a year earlier.

Yesterday, Communities Secretary Michael Gove announced that care home residents will not be allowed to see more than three visitors in winter. This is to guard them against the vaccine-evading variant. 

Omicron has been successfully treated with Covid booster jabs. However, millions who have yet to get their third vaccination could still be exposed to the disease. 

Officials insist that only two doses are required to provide strong protection against serious illnesses, although even a tiny drop could lead to a rise in hopsitalisations.

According to secret data provided to ministers, the variant accounts for 30% of all new Covid cases in London.

Stark projections show the super-mutant variant could become dominant within days, prompting concerns that Boris Johnson will have no choice but to hit the panic button once more. 

This comes after Sajid Javid (health secretary) leaked advice from body calling for “stringent national steps” to be taken by December 18.

The government stated that there are no plans for additional restrictions after Plan B was revealed this week. However, Michael Gove declared on Friday that it had been given’very troubling information’ concerning Omicron’s spread at a Cobra conference. 

Professor Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College London epidemiologist, has warned that the Omicron variant has the potential to 'very substantially overwhelm the NHS' and cause up to 10,000 hospitalisations a day if it is as virulent as Delta

The Imperial College London epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson warned Omicron could’very substantially overwhelm NHS’ and result in up to 10,000 hospitalisations each day. If it is as potent as Delta

Below is a map showing the 10 areas with the highest number of Omicron cases and suspicions in England. It was created by the UK Health Security Agency. West Northamptonshire has been identified as the hotspot of this strain. However, London is home to eight out of ten.

Confidential UK Health Security Agency data showed that Omicron may now be behind 8.5 per cent of infections. The figures are based on the proportion of PCR tests failing to detect a specific gene, an early indicator of the variant. PCRs look for three genes to confirm a Covid infection, but with Omicron one is so mutated that they only pick up two of them. The analysis was done by Professor Alastair Grant, a Covid modeller at the University of East Anglia, who has access to the secret statistics

According to confidential UK Health Security Agency data, Omicron could now have been responsible for 8.5% of all infections. These figures were based upon the percentage of PCR tests that failed to identify a particular gene. This is an indicator of the variant. To confirm Covid infection, PCRs search for three genes. Omicron however only allows them to pick up two. Professor Alastair Grant of the University of East Anglia was able to access the secrets statistics and performed the analysis. 

Victoria Derbyshire reveals how her triple-vaccinated brother Covid caught after Xmas with his friends 

Victoria Derbyshire’s brother caught Covid while eating Christmas dinner with his friends, despite him being triple-vaccinated.

BBC Presenter 53 years old revealed via Twitter that 17 out of 21 members of her group, all of which were vaccinated, had been infected. Her sibling also ‘feels rough and is isolated. 

She said it showed how fast Omicron can spread – and later added that she was tweeting to bring awareness of its transmissibility. 

The warning came as the strain’s spread is alarming across Britain. A specialist warned that people may be able to find someone infected if they don’t live a life like a hermit.

Ms Derbyshire said: ‘My brother’s triple-jabbed — the third one was Pfizer 3-4 wks ago.

‘He’s just got Covid & feels ‘rough’ and is isolating.

Other developments related to the Covid pandemic

  • Victoria Derbyshire’s brother caught Covid while eating Christmas dinner with his friends, despite him being triple-vaccinated. 
  • Yesterday’s super-mutant Omicron cases jumped 54 percent. Overall, daily Covid infection rates exceeded levels never seen since the UK’s second devastating wave.
  • London hosts the nation’s Omicron-infected outbreak, with over 2,000 cases reported in 32 of London’s boroughs.
  • Tory whips have been scrambling to persuade MPs to back new coronavirusFears of curbs Boris Johnson could suffer a rebellion of more than 50 MPs over the measures;
  • Nicola Sturgeon warned about a looming tsunami’ of infections if Omicron is completely dominant in Scotland. 
  • Number 10 said it would cancel this year’s Christmas party, but insisted the public could still enjoy theirs.

Professor Riley stated that Omicron has been spreading rapidly and that it is very unlikely you’ll find it unless you live the hermit lifestyle.

“I do not believe anyone should go around believing they won’t catch it. I believe that the situation has improved.”

She said, “There’s a big if” about it. Is it milder? Comparing data from South Africa to Britain, for example, is dangerous.

“Even though it may be milder, and therefore a lower proportion of the infected end up in hospital,”

Sector bosses are at loss over whether or not residents will see their loved ones this Christmas due to new restrictions in care homes.

Nadra Ahmad, of National Association of Care Providers stated that she would like to know more details about the new guidance. She also wanted to clarify if anyone can modify the three persons who are nominated to visit someone living in a nursing home.

BBC Breakfast, she said: “Families can be much larger than they seem.” [three people], if you’ve got four siblings, five siblings, you’ve got grandchildren, great grandchildren.

“It was something for which we have been planning and we now look at three people. This kind of empowers no one else, and it may be something residents were looking forward too.

“We are raising expectations regarding this very substantially, and of course we’re almost back at where we were. Just slightly better but nearly back to last year.

Health experts warn that millions of Britons are not protected against Omicron Covid from the first jab. They also urge the public to have their booster jabs in order to prevent overloading the NHS this Christmas. Scientists from the government found that elderly who received two doses AstraZeneca a few months ago were almost completely unprotected against Omicron infections, while two Pfizer doses provided just 30% protection.

This graph illustrates vaccine effectiveness for mild illnesses and the time since vaccination. Pfizer boosters offer 70 to 75 percent protection against mild Omicron disease, regardless of the vaccine used. Delta is at 90 per cent. Pfizer could provide just 37% protection in three months, while Delta provides 60%. AstraZeneca gave almost no protection for the same period of time after two doses. However, scientists warn that the data on AstraZeneca is less reliable as the vaccine was typically administered at the start of vaccine rollouts in the most vulnerable population.

Public Health Scotland estimates the new variant will be dominant next week, accounting for more than 50 per cent of all Covid cases, and make almost all new infections by the end of the year

Public Health Scotland predicts that the new variant, which accounts for almost half of all Covid infections, will rule next week.

Omicron makes up 13.3 per cent of Covid cases in Scotland and is doubling every two to three days

Omicron accounts for 13.3% of Covid case in Scotland. This figure is increasing by a factor of two or three every day

She stated that clarifications regarding the guidance were something she expected care home workers to get by Tuesday (the day before new restrictions will be in force).

BBC Breakfast, she said: “Friday night, that was yesterday. It was announced. Then we must put it in place Wednesday. We will hold a weekend and the providers will already have made all of those appointments.

“We miss the open houses and all that people could do, but it’s impossible to have them anymore.

I think it is a problem for us. It will take us a few days to put it in place.  

Raigmore Hospital Inverness has had to close Ward 7a after a surge in Covid-related infections. The patients are currently being evaluated and followed with regular in-patient care. 

An NHS spokesman said: ‘There is no evidence of any link between these cases and those in ward 5a, which also remains closed to new admissions and visiting.’ 

Testing is underway to determine if any of these cases may be of Omicron type. The results of this test are expected next week. Adam Brown, a consultant microbiologist said that the fact that there are apparently unrelated cases of Covid-19 at two different wards is a sign of how widespread the virus in this community. 

“It’s more important than ever that you follow the guidance regarding distancing and hand-washing, as well as wearing a mask. 

All necessary infection control and prevention measures have been taken. Close contacts have been identified, advised and supported.