Omicron has advised that people who have contracted Covid within the last six months must be “quite protected”, a top expert on the disease said.  

South African evidence suggests that the strain may re-infect people three times faster than other variants. This is despite immunity to severe illnesses.

But a major British study appears to show that protection from prior infection remains high for at least six months — even against infection. 

This is according to Professor Tim Spector who manages the UK Covid surveillance project for symptom tracking.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We’ve definitely had cases reported where they had one of the previous variants, six to 12 months before, and they got re-infected.

‘We’re not seeing many who’ve had recent infections, so it could be that if you’ve been infected more in the last six months you are relatively quite well protected.’

He did however add data to Omicron protection, but more research is required.

While Professor Spector was unable to clarify if the same applies for both vaccinated persons and those who are not, growing evidence indicates that only two doses (or more) of jabs can provide protection from symptomatic illness at around 30%. 

Concerning the Covid symptoms many are now feeling, Professor Spector stated that most are currently experiencing cold-like symptoms and classic symptoms Britons should be able to identify or have tested if they are suffering. 

“The vast majority of symptoms can be compared to the common cold. We’re talking about sore throats, headaches, runny nasals, fatigue and other things such as sneezing,” he stated.

“Things such as fever, cough and loss of sense are now in the minority among symptoms we see.”

Professor Tim Spector, who runs the UK's largest Covid symptom-tracking study has said there appear to few people who've had a Covid infection in the last six months who are catching Omicron, but added more data was needed on this

Professor Tim Spector runs UK’s biggest Covid symptom tracking study. Although he said it appears that very few people have contracted Omicron from a Covid infected within the past six month, more information is needed.

Omicron cases are rapidly increasing across the UK, particularly in London

Omicron cases in the UK are on the rise, especially in London.

Professor Spector warned, too, that London cases are increasing faster than ever since the beginning of the second wave.  

He added his team’s data — which is given to ministers — suggests anyone battling a cold in London probably has Covid.

Due to antibodies the body has retained to combat the virus, a Covid-related infection in the past can offer protection against the risk of catching it again.

The symptoms of covidence: What should we be looking out for? 

If you have:  

  • Continuous coughing is a brand new method
  • A high temperature
  • A loss or change of your senses of smell or taste

To self-isolate and take a Covid test.

But experts like Professor Tim Spector have said these symptoms are now in the minority of Covid cases and people should keep an watch out for cold like symptoms such as headaches, sore throat, a runny nose, fatigue, and sneezing.

The prior-infection protection works in the same way as Covid jabs. However, you must catch Covid to receive it.

Experts debate whether a previous infection provides Omicron protection. It is also possible that it could be escaped vaccines. The super-mutant Covid variant is so different to other Covid viruses, antibodies might not recognize it.

In South Africa, where Omicron was first identified just a few weeks ago, experts have reported that natural antibodies provided by previous Covid infection were ineffective at preventing the variant from infecting people.

Just yesterday, Dr Paul Burton (chief medical officer at vaccine manufacturer Moderna) warned that Omicron, Delta and other viruses could be infected simultaneously and may lead to the development of a hybrid virus. 

Covid infections usually only affect one mutant strain. However, in very rare cases, two or more can occur at the same moment.

They may also be infected by the same virus.

However Dr Burton said that the possibility of Omicron or Delta case recurrences in Britain is higher because there are so many Omicron/Delta cases.

He stated to the Science and Technology Committee MPs that it was possible for them to swap genes and cause an even more harmful variant. 

The Omicron Covid variant is now dominant in London, and is expected to make up the majority of cases in other regions over the coming days and weeks.

Omicron Covid is the dominant variant in London and will likely make up most cases elsewhere in the next days and weeks.

The above graph shows the proportion of cases suspected to be Omicron because they do not have an S-gene (purple). PCR tests look for three genes to confirm a Covid infection but with Omicron one is so mutated that they only pick up two of them

This graph displays the Omicron-like proportion in cases that are not carrying an S-gene. To confirm Covid infections, PCR tests search for three genes. However Omicron has only two.

The above graph shows the proportion of cases suspected to be Omicron because they do not have an S-gene (purple). PCR tests look for three genes to confirm a Covid infection but with Omicron one is so mutated that they only pick up two of them

This graph displays the Omicron-like proportion in cases that are not carrying an S-gene. To confirm Covid infections, PCR tests search for three genes. However Omicron has only two.

Researchers have cautioned that such events are possible, but require specific conditions, and the co-occurrence of many uncontrollable factors.

Is London taking ITSELF into lockdown? 

Today saw London’s West End effectively lock down as shows in theatres were cancelled and restaurants and bars were subject to cancellations due to rising fears about the Covid variant.

Big-budget productions from The Lion King at the Lyceum to Life of Pi at Wyndham’s Theatre halted performances due to virus outbreaks among their cast and crew – a decision which is costing producers hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s A Comedy Of Errors at the Barbican production and The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time, Wembley productions were both cancelled. The National Theatre delayed a preview of Hex because a leading actor contracted the virus.

Other shows that were suspended included The Rhythmics in Southwark Playhouse and Force Majeure, both at Donmar Warehouse. Fair Play was also at the Bush Theatre. Moulin Rouge, Piccadilly Theater also had shows suspended but it has been restarted.

People cancelling reservations at West End pubs and restaurants due to concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid, which is now the predominant strain in London, have left West End venues ‘devastated.

In other Covid news today, Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference later today as he faces growing pressure from his own advisers to hit the panic button in the face of Omicron and implement even tougher restrictions. 

The mutant strain is already dominating London, and it has been predicted that up to 200 000 people will catch it each day. Professor Chris Whitty and Dr Nikki Kanani from the NHS are expected to address the nation about the situation. 

The briefing will not reveal any new restrictions, although the Government will host a Cobra secret meeting where ministers of England, Scotland and Wales will talk about the UK’s response. 

Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency — which replaced the now-defunct Public Health England — warned Omicron posed the ‘biggest threat’ yet and that the NHS was ‘in peril’.

Graham Medley of SAGE, who is a modeller and researcher in the field of sociology, said he fears that the super-strain will cause a “very large” wave of hospitalisations. Meanwhile Professor Adam Finn of jabs advised called for an end to the ‘alarming spread’ of the virus.

After suffering the 100-strong revolt of backbench members over Covid Passes last night, it is now questionable whether or not the Prime Minister has enough political will to make a more severe lockdown if necessary.

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, hinted today at tighter restrictions in 2022. While he said that Christmas will be happier this year than it was last year but cautioned that current regulations ‘will keep us going through the new Year’.

It was revealed today, too that Michael Gove (Communities Secretary) will be chairing a Cobra meeting at 5pm with the devolved authorities. 

Omicron has been identified as the cause of half of new Covid cases in London. This infection rate has soared to its highest level since January, prompting calls for action at regional levels.

London’s West End has been effectively locked down as shows have been suspended, and restaurants and bars are subject to cancellations due to mounting concerns about the new variant.

The mayor’s spokesperson suggested that yesterday they might support greater restrictions in the capital. He said it would be better to act now. Tories however called upon ministers not to forget the ‘vaccine protection’.

In the capital, hospitals have begun to rise in numbers. They are up 50 percent in just two weeks. But the raw numbers still stand at around 150 a day, compared to nearly 1,000 during the darkest days of the capital’s second wave in January. At around 10, deaths remain constant.

These are lagging indicators, however, because of the time taken for someone who catches the virus to fall seriously ill and be admitted to hospital, meaning the worst of the rapid spread — which has yet to show any signs of slowing down — won’t be felt until the New Year.