The South African epicenter may have seen an increase in Omicron infections. However, new data suggests that the UK might not see a worse outbreak of the disease.

South Africa’s Weekly Covid Monitoring Report revealed that Gauteng Province had the most cases last week since Omicron alerted it on November 24th. 

In Gauteng there were only 377 cases per 100,000, which is a decrease of around 4 percent from the previous week. MailOnline was told by experts that although the drop in Omicron cases is encouraging enough to allow for error, the fact remains that Omicron has stopped spreading exponentially.

Testing in the province has more than doubled in the past three weeks — from 541 tests per 100,000 on November 27 to 1,264 now, suggesting swabbing capacity is not the issue.

Robert Dingwall (an ex-member of the Nervtag or JCVI panels) expects that this ultra-infectious strain will infect so many Britons it causes a work absence crisis. However, he predicts that the virus will not infect any Britons. overwhelm the NHS, despite gloomy warnings from No10’s own scientists.

Yesterday’s major, real-world Omicron study in South Africa found that Omicron is responsible for two-thirds less hospitalizations than Delta. This supports claims that it is more mild than other strains.  

MailOnline was informed by Professor Dingwall that he is still a sociologist and sits on Government’s Moral and Ethical Advisory Group. However, he has not been involved in the responses to the pandemic.South Africa’s top experts tell us to stop reacting, that the virus is more mild.

British scientists were falsely accused by him of being snobbery. He added that the best South African scientists could be just as effective as anyone anywhere.

Omicron can cause milder diseases, according to South African doctors. On average, there are 375 Covid admissions per day in South Africa. 

However, No10’s medical advisors worry that Britain’s ageing population could increase the risk of infection and pressure in hospitals. This despite only 25% of South Africans being vaccinated. 

After 18 months of fighting the pandemic, there is evidence that the threshold at which the NHS is considered ‘overwhelmed” is now lower. Omicron was already in crisis mode, the waiting list for routine surgery has risen to a new record since then.

South Africa's weekly Covid surveillance report this morning revealed that cases fell in the epicentre of Gauteng province last week, in an early sign that the variant has peaked within a month of being discovered. The province, which includes major cities like Johannesberg and Tshwane, recorded 377 cases per 100,000 people in the week to December 11, down 3.9 per cent on the previous week

South Africa’s Covid surveillance reports this morning showed that Gauteng was the epicenter of the cases. It is likely that the variant peaked after a month. It includes cities such as Johannesberg and Tshwane. The number of cases was 3.9% lower than the previous week.

Cases were rising in young children, older teenagers and adults 40 and over, but falling in all other groups. The fact that cases are still rising in elderly and vulnerable groups is still a cause for concern

There was an increase in cases in younger children and older adolescents, as well as in adults aged 40+, while there were fewer in the rest of the population. It is concerning that elderly and vulnerable populations are seeing cases rise.

This graph shows the Covid infection rate per 100,000 people in England's regions. It also shows there has been a rapid uptick in London (red) while cases remain largely flat in other regions

The graph below shows the Covid incidence rate for each 100,000 inhabitants in England. The graph shows that there is a significant increase in cases in London (red), but the rate remains flat in most other areas.

The above graph shows the seven-day average for hospital admissions in different regions of England. It reveals that in London (orange) there has been a steady increase

Below is the graph showing seven-day average hospital admissions across England. The graph shows that hospital admissions have been increasing steadily in London (orange). 

Professor Dingwall told The Telegraph last night: ‘My gut feeling is that omicron is very much like the sort of flu pandemic we planned for – a lot of sickness absence from work in a short period, which will create difficulties for public services and economic activity, but not of such a severity as to be a big problem for the NHS and the funeral business.’ 

He made these comments as South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) Weekly Covid Report found Gauteng had experienced a drop in cases last week for its first time.

This province includes large cities such as Johannesburg and Tshwane. It recorded 377 cases for every 100,000 residents in the week ending December 11. That’s a drop of 3.9% from the previous week.    

London Omicron-hotspot is witnessing Covid cases increase faster than in the very first wave 

London’s Covid-stricken Omicron cases are increasing faster than any time since the initial wave. Most people who get a cold are at risk of contracting the virus, according to an epidemiologist. 

The UK’s most comprehensive study on viruses and Professor Tim Spector said that Covid was responsible for at least half of all the illnesses. Comparatively, the proportion is around one in four throughout the country.

The symptoms of Omicron or Delta infection are the same, he said. These include a sore throat and runny nose as well as fatigue, headaches, sneezing, and fatigue.

Health bosses warned today that Omicron was the ‘biggest threat’ since the start of the pandemic, and was leaving the NHS — a key barometer of whether more restrictions are needed — in ‘peril’.

Graham Medley, a SAGE scientist said that he was concerned about the potential for a large number of hospitalisations due to the mutation. It is transmissible more than any other strain.

Omicron already has more than 50 percent of London’s infection rates. London has experienced a spike in its infection rate to 575.4 per 100,000 residents since January.

The capital’s hospitalisations have increased by 50 percent in two weeks, with an average of 90-140 people admitted to Covid wards every day. However, the number of deaths from the virus remains flat at 10 per day.

However, these indicators are not as accurate due to the amount of time it takes for someone with the virus to become seriously ill and need to be admitted to hospital.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Mayor suggested that they support additional restrictions on the capital and said it was better to “act now”. Tories however called upon ministers not to forget the ‘vaccine protection’.

The virus is causing many West End productions to be cancelled and hotel and restaurant cancellations.

Paul Hunter is an epidemiologist from the University of East Anglia. He also teaches environmental health at Tshwane University of Technological Arts.

He said, “But we need to be cautious not to take in too many data points within a week.” If this trend continues, it would be good news both for South Africa as well as for us.

‘I can’t think of any major caveats, though one swallow doesn’t make a spring so just one week of data could be due to other things such as problems with people accessing testing (I know of no evidence that this is the case but I am always a little cautious).’ 

Yesterday, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson stated that it was “valid” to predict the UK would face 1 million Omicron infection per day by the end.

That projection is based on widely disputed modelling by the UK Health Security Agency which claims there were also 200,000 Omicron infections yesterday — despite the centralised testing scheme picking up just 59,000.

Professor Hunter stated that although the figure of 1,000,000 per day was theoretically possible, he thinks it’s too high. 

“An important difference for the UK is that, even though South Africa has lower vaccination rates, many people in the country have been exposed to an infection before and it’s difficult to translate to the UK.

“Even so, I don’t think that the omicron will grow at its current rapid doubling rate for very long. Otherwise we’d all be infected by Christmas 12th.”

The development comes after the first major real-world study in South Africa found that Omicron is currently leading to a third fewer hospital admissions than Delta did during its entire wave — 38 admissions per 1,000 Omicron cases compared to 101 per 1,000 for Delta.

According to officials who examined 78,000 Omicron case reports in the month of September, they were able to estimate the risk of hospitalisation was a fifth lower than with Delta and 29 per cent lower than the original virus.   

These findings support the hypothesis that the ultra-infectious strain is less infectious than other strains. This has been the claim of South African doctors for several weeks. 

But the reduction in severity is probably not solely down to Omicron being intrinsically milder, according to the South African Medical Research Council which led the analysis. 

A majority of South Africans have already recovered from Covid, and around 70% are now double-vaccinated. This gives them a high level of immunity.  

Two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine provided 70 percent protection against Omicron-related hospitalizations or deaths, as compared with 93 percent for Delta.

This is more protection that scientists had feared. However, 30% of the population remains vulnerable to Omicron disease. That’s four times as many people as Delta.   Waning immunity from two Pfizer doses was found to offer just 33 per cent protection against Omicron infection, explaining why the country has seen a meteoric rise in case numbers.

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.

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

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

THREE vaccinations required for holiday travel. Brits have warned that booster shots will be necessary to ensure they are ‘fully immunized’ in 2022. 

Grant Shapps today revealed that Britons who want to travel abroad in the next year are going to need a third Covid jab.

It was stated by the Transport Secretary that countries such as France, Italy, and US members of G7, who are popular destinations for millions of UK tourists in their respective countries, would likely require entry to be made mandatory starting 2022.

It is likely that booster jabs will become an essential domestic requirement in order to be fully vaccinated inside Britain. Ministers have stated that rules will be revised as soon as possible after people are given a fair chance of getting it.

Sky News interviewed Mr Shapps this morning. He said: ‘I speak with my opposites in other nations – transport secretary from all over the world, especially the G7 thisyear, which is hosting.

They are saying “Look, we’re going switch to requiring people have the third jab” before they’re allowed to enter their countries. It becomes inevitable as other countries will eventually require it.

“I do not know when that will happen – but it is this year.” 

Sajid Javid yesterday confirmed that all countries would be taken off the government’s international travel list at 4am this morning because of the Omicron variant which is rampant in the UK.

The House of Commons heard from the Health Secretary that it was necessary to make the changes because of domestic transmission and the possibility of spreading the virus ‘widely around the globe.

He stated, “Now less effective in slowing Omicron’s incursion from abroad,” and that hotel quarantine would be cancelled.

Angola. Botswana. Eswatini. Lesotho. Malawi. Mozambique. Namibia. Nigeria. South Africa. Zambia.

At a meeting held by the Cabinet’s Covid-19 operations committee (Covid O), the decision was reached.

Following the Omicron emergence, the red list was reinstated as ministers sought to prevent cases from being brought into the UK.

Tougher rules regarding travel testing will continue to apply despite the modification of the redlist.  

One of the top modelers at the government said that despite the optimism there was no way to be optimistic. Omicron may lead to the NHS becoming overwhelmed.

Graham Medley is chair of SPI M modelling, which feeds into SAGE. He told BBC Radio 4 Today that he fears that there will be a rise in infections and more people admitted to hospitals.

This was when Dr Jenny Harries (chief executive of UK Health Security Agency) told MPs that Omicron coronavirus variant is “probably the most severe threat” since the outbreak of the pandemic.

However, she said that the “real danger” is that patients could become ill with severe diseases, death or hospitalisations.

Prof. Medley spoke in his personal capacity. He said that while it’s difficult to accurately predict what will happen on any particular day, “it’s certain true that Omicron-related infections have increased dramatically” and it was “very difficult to forecast in real time”.

He stated that “we’re likely now at the same level that we’ve been at in the past,” and that it looked like the trend would continue and surpass that.

Professor Medley claimed that Omicron is still a mystery. However, he said, “We have a different population than last year. In the sense where the majority has been vaccinated. There has been much infected since then. Therefore, there is more immunity.”

“The virus is less likely to infect us because we have a greater immune system than usual.

“So while we individually have a lower chance of getting sick, the number of infections in our population means that we are at greater risk. However, if we add up, it is possible for hospitalizations to be very high.

It is an’million-dollar issue’ as to how it will impact the health system, he said. He said that hospitals might become overwhelmed if they were asked.

“If there is an increase in infections and this spills over into the older age group, we might see a lot more people admitted to hospitals. It could be as high as 1,000 to maybe 2,000 per day. We’ve kept the Delta variant under control.

“It was kind of under 1,000 since July with no restrictions. But I believe that it is very, very hard or very unlikely for this to occur.”

The expert replied that he believed there was a possibility that the NHS would be overwhelmed in the next month.

“It is very difficult to know these things. They are not something you can put at risk, or a probability. However this is one possibility that might happen.

Professor Medley stated that although the number of boosters had increased tremendously, it was the “concertinaing effect” which poses the greatest danger.

According to the doctor, the average hospitalization per day has been 800 in the past five month. But, “if we had had all that in one month we would have had an entirely different experience. And the NHS would be extremely taxed.”

He continued, “And this is the fear — that we end with the next four month of the epidemic within one month.”

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, defended Government’s position by saying that ministers think Plan B contains’sensible and proportionate steps which, together with the booster jab we believe will be the best approach.

Today interviewed him to say that the Government believes that we are better positioned than last year for Christmas. He added that testing before the gatherings was a smart move and boosters were also recommended.

A member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, Professor Adam Finn from Bristol, told BBC Breakfast that the Omicron wave is only beginning to take off in the rest of the country.

“The wave is approaching very quickly, in fact alarmingly rapid – if not faster than ever,” he said. It is really a race right now.

“The less this problem is, the more immune we all have. But I fear it will be serious.

Prof Finn acknowledged that it wasn’t his job to determine what regulations need to be applied to the public, but he said: “I can definitely encourage people to do all they can during this crucial period to reduce spread of virus. Of course, some of those actions can be done freely without the imposition of rules.

We all now know the best things we can do. Avoiding social contact is possible. We can also minimize contact at work. It’s easy to wear masks, and, most importantly, to do lateral flow testing before entering a crowd where there might be infection.

Prof Finn expressed concern about the number of infections that are occurring daily and said that it was causing a rise in the rate of hospitalizations.

However, he stated that boosters have a quick effect on the body. He added: “It happens very quickly because you have immunological memories, you know the antigen from previous doses so it’s easy to see the increase in protection.

Professor Tim Spector from the Covid Zoe App said Covid cases in London have been increasing faster than during the initial wave.

Today interviewed him about the common symptoms of Omicron, which include headaches and runny nasal, tiredness, fatigue, and sore throat.

He stated that Covid in London is growing rapidly and it is more likely it will be Covid there than it is to become a cold.

“If we examine our regional charts, we can see London increasing faster than ever since the first wave. This means Omicron has become the dominant variant.

Tuesday evening saw new restrictions in Parliament approved for face covers in more indoor spaces of England. They also introduced NHS Covid passes to large nightclubs.

The Scottish government has urged people to avoid mixing and to socialize with no more than two other households inside their homes. Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland politicians have backed Covid certification which allows them to enter nightclubs pubs, restaurants, and any other licensed premises.