Scientists at No10 have called for vaccine passports to be introduced and guidance from home in order to stop the spread of Omicron Covid, as published advice today.

Papers released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and subgroup Nervtag warned the highly evolved strain could cause a surge in cases ‘similar or even larger’ than previous waves.

An expert panel acknowledged that there is no consensus on the severity of the variant, and contradictory reports are coming from South Africa. 

According to the SAGE’s Minutes of the 97th SAGE meeting on Covid on Monday, Omicron was a sign that it is necessary for vaccine passports to be brought in and that work-from-home guidance should return.

Chaired by Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medicine Officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance the Chief Science Officer, the meeting concluded that although it was clear of the strain’s infectivity, evidence for its effects on vaccines remains murky. 

In a separate meeting of SAGE modelling subgroup Spi-M, scientists also warned that coronavirus would likely cause misery in Britain for a further five years at least before becoming endemic — at which point it would be weakened to the point of a common cold thanks to jabs and natural immunity. 

Although they stated that monitoring would continue and that ‘active’ actions would be necessary until 2026 but did not specify what those might entail, 

However, they acknowledged that there was not sufficient evidence to prove its 32 mutations make it more difficult for vaccines to be administered. REF ABOVE. 

Omicron is not yet fully understood by scientists. However, they will be able to isolate it in the lab, study its biology, compare it with vaccine-evasiveness and lethality of other people who have been previously infected. 

However, the variant seems to be now spreading in England even though there have been only a handful of confirmed cases. 

Official data indicates that there is an increase in the percentage of positive Covid test results for the mutation associated with the extremely-evolved strain. Omicron is similar to Alpha and the ‘Kent variants’. It has a unique alteration that allows it to be detected using PCR tests, without the need of genomic sequencing.

England’s proportion of S-gene-dropout positive tests has increased from 0.1% in the week prior to 0.3% in the current week. This is equivalent to one in 325. According to scientists, the rise in S-gene dropsouts could indicate that hundreds of Omicron cases are currently under the radar. 

A large British study into booster vaccines revealed that Moderna as well as Pfizer had tripled the number of T cells in people double-jabbed. Scientists said this made it clear that boosters would provide high Omicron protection. There have been approximately 59 confirmed Omicron cases in Britain. 

It comes as public health officials in Gauteng, the epicentre of South Africa’s outbreak, estimate the province’s R rate has surged from less than one to 3.5 in just a month — suggesting that every 10 infected people are passing the virus onto 35 others. 

The minutes of SAGE’s 97th Meeting on Covid, held Monday, show that Omicron’s emergence meant that vaccine passports were needed and work-from home guidance was required to be reinstated.

Papers released by subgroup Nervtag warned the highly evolved strain could cause a surge in cases 'similar or even larger' than previous waves

Nervtag’s subgroup published papers warning that the extremely evolved strain might cause an increase in cases “similar to or larger” than before.

In a separate meeting of SAGE modelling subgroup Spi-M, scientists also warned that coronavirus would likely cause misery in Britain for a further five years at least before becoming endemic

Separately, SAGE modelling subgroup Spi M warned scientists that coronavirus could cause severe misery in Britain for at most five years before it becomes an endemic.

Some 59 cases of Omicron have been confirmed in the UK so far. Twenty-nine infections have been spotted in England, including three in Westminster and two in each of Barnet, Buckinhamshire, Camden, Lewisham and South Northamptonshire. And Scotland's cases today increased by 16 to 29. The first 13 infections were divided between Lanarkshire and the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, but a Government spokesperson declined to confirm where the 16 new cases were spotted. And Wales announced this afternoon that its first case has been found in Cardiff

So far, 59 Omicron cases have been reported in the UK. Nineteen cases of Omicron have been confirmed in England. Three were found in Westminster, and the other two were located in South Northamptonshire, Buckinhamshire and Camden. Scotland has seen an increase of 16 to 29 cases. While the 13 first cases of infection were shared between Lanarkshire (and the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region), a Government spokesperson refused to provide any further details. Wales also announced today that it has found its first case in Cardiff 

Official data shows that the proportion of positive Covid tests with a mutation synonymous with the highly-evolved strain is on the rise. Like Alpha, or the 'Kent variant', Omicron has a specific alteration which means it can be detected through PCR tests without the need for genomic sequencing. The proportion of positive tests in England with this so-called S-gene dropout has risen from 0.1 per cent in the past week to 0.3 per cent, the equivalent of one in 330. Scientists said the increase in S-gene dropouts suggests there could be hundreds of Omicron cases that are flying under the radar currently

Official data indicates that there is an increase in the percentage of positive Covid test results for the mutation associated with the extremely-evolved strain. Omicron, like Alpha or the ‘Kent variation’, has a particular alteration that can be detected by PCR without the need to perform genomic sequencing. This so-called S gene dropout is responsible for increasing the proportion of Omicron positives in England from 0.1% to 0.3 percent in the last week, which equals one in 330. According to scientists, the increased number of S-gene failures could indicate that hundreds of Omicron cases are currently under radar. 

Covid booster vaccines are likely to offer good protection against the Omicron variant, experts behind a Government-funded new study say. Graph shows: The number of T-cells per 10^6 peripheral blood mononuclear cells in people who have had two doses of the AstraZeneca after a third dose of the Pfizer (red bars) and Moderna (blue bars) vaccines

According to experts who conducted a Government-funded study, booster vaccines for Covid may offer protection against Omicron variant. Graph showing: T-cells in 106 peripheral blood mononuclear cell counts of people who had received two doses AstraZeneca (red bars) or Moderna (blue bar) vaccines.

Omicron Spreading in England: The first sign Omicron is spreading to England. 

New charts suggest that Omicron, the super-mutant Omicron strain is spreading within England. However, only a small number of cases have been officially confirmed.

Official data indicates that there is an increase in the percentage of positive Covid test results for the mutation associated with the extremely-evolved strain. Omicron is similar to Alpha and the ‘Kent variants’. It has a unique alteration that allows it to be detected using PCR tests, without the need of genomic sequencing.

England’s proportion of S-gene-dropout positive tests has increased from 0.1% in the week prior to 0.3% in the current week. This is equivalent to one in 325. According to scientists, the rise in S-gene dropsouts could indicate that hundreds of Omicron cases are currently under the radar.

While the variant is likely only making up a small number of cases in the UK — where 50,000 people on average are testing positive each day, most with Delta — it is feared the country could be on the brink of a fresh wave.   

It comes as public health officials in Gauteng, the epicentre of South Africa’s outbreak, estimate the province’s R rate has surged from less than one to 3.5 in just a month — suggesting that every 10 infected people are passing the virus onto 35 others.

Since November 24, when South Africa was the first to alert the rest of the world, the Omicron virus has caused a rapid rise in Omicron cases. Most are concentrated in Gauteng.

On Thursday, the national number of cases rose to 11,535 – a 37% increase in just one week and a 33% rise over 8,500 yesterday. In just over one week, it has been the predominant strain across the country and accounts for 75 percent of all sequenced samples.

SAGE said bringing back face coverings in all indoor public settings — including restaurants and bars — remained a ‘highly relevant’ way of countering the variant. 

According to them, “Past SAGE advice to reduce transmission is highly relevant. This includes but not limited advice around ventilation and face coverings, hygiene, hand hygiene, reducing contact (e.g. Working from home), vaccine certification and the importance effective testing, contact trace and isolation.

On Monday, No10 made face masks mandatory in public transport in England and at shops, hairdressers, and beauty salons across the country.

But it stopped short of bringing back the rules in bars, cafes and restaurants — unlike in Scotland, which has already brought them in.

Two other areas that were key to the Government’s Winter ‘Plan B” included vaccination passports at public events, and return-of-work from home guidance. These are the main components of Ministers’ winter ‘Plan B. They said they will be implemented ‘if data suggest further measures are needed to protect NHS’.

After another 10 cases of this variant were found in England yesterday and bringing Britain’s total up to 44, the UK’s case numbers have increased over the past 2 days.

Hospitalisations and deaths continue to decline for several weeks. The increase in hospitalisations has been limited to the younger and less susceptible age groups, and the booster vaccines that limit severe diseases in the older.

Members of the Department of Health’s New and Emerging Respiratory Viral Threats Advisory group (Nervtag), however, claimed that Omicron’s onset could cause a new wave of infections. 

Nervtag stated that B.1.1.529, if brought into the UK would be likely to cause a new wave in infections. 

“We cannot rule out that the wave we are about to witness would have a magnitude equal or greater than those of previous waves.”

If the strain is as resistant as experts fear, it could result in hospitalisations and even death.

SAGE argued that the exact extent of the variant preventing jabs from working properly is not yet clear. Data from South Africa, which has a low vaccine rate relative to the UK makes it difficult for SAGE to evaluate the data.

Nearly 80 percent (or 44.65 million) of eligible Brits have had at least two Covid vaccinations. That compares with just under half in South Africa which has around 43% who have had each jab.

The booster vaccines will still be effective in protecting Brits from severe diseases, hospitalisations and death. They also supported the Government’s decision to expand booster coverage throughout Britain.

Boris Johnson, in an attempt to lessen the NHS burden caused by this variant, announced No10’s new strategy. He will give boosters for every adult by January 31. 

Data in South Africa shows the R-rate has soared to over three per cent in recent weeks as Omicron took hold in Gauteng province

South Africa data shows that the R-rate rose to more than three percent in South Africa since Omicron was established in Gauteng.

New images of the Omicron variant's 32 mutations (left) were released yesterday by the Covid Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK). They show the variant's three mutations — H655Y, N679K, and P681H, located in the lower right of the image — that could help the virus sneak into the body more easily

The Covid Genomics UK Consortium(COG-UK) released images yesterday showing the 32 Omicron variant mutations. They show the variant’s three mutations — H655Y, N679K, and P681H, located in the lower right of the image — that could help the virus sneak into the body more easily

Oliver Dowden offers some helpful advice to help you get through Christmas. 

Today, Oliver Dowden, Tory Party Chairman, insisted that people should “keep calm and continue” with Christmas parties and plans despite Omicron. However, Britain’s bars, hotels and restaurants are already losing billions and say that “the damage has already been done”.

Dowden maintained that the guidelines were clear and consistent despite contradictory and unclear advice coming from various ministers. He also stated, “There’s still time for a Conservative Party Christmas party.”

He said, “Brits must adhere to mask rules in shops and public transport.”

Boris Johnson has advised companies not to cancel office parties. His ministers told people to either cancel, wear masks or take tests.

Sky News’ Mr Dowden said that he believed the message was simple: Keep calm and continue with your Christmas plans. While we have put in place the restrictions, please keep your cool and go on.

“I am aware that there are concerns about the new version. The Government took the measures we have already described… We believe those are enough at this stage. People should not change their plans beyond what we suggested.

Many of Britain’s largest employers, including banks, tech companies, and the NHS have decided to stop hosting festive parties or moved them online in confusion. Now, it is a 50/50 split.

This group stated that booster vaccines had been proven to generate strong antibodies and could provide protection against severe diseases and hospitalisations. Protection against infection is higher than protection from severe disease. 

‘Increasing coverage of booster vaccinations — as well as increasing coverage of primary courses — is therefore an important defence.’

According to the severity of immunity escape, they added: “Other vaccination strategies such as current vaccines may need to also be considered.” 

“Companies already pursue multivalent and Omicron vaccines. 

Today, a Government-funded experiment showed the body’s immune response to the third dose of vaccines. This suggests that vaccinations can continue protecting against death and hospitalization from this new strain. 

It is believed that T-cells offer a greater level of protection and longer term than antibodies, which provide an immediate boost but then fade more quickly.   

Professor Saul Faust is the trial leader and director at the NIHR Clinical Research Facility, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. He said that although we do not fully understand the relationship to long-term immunity the T cell data shows that the immune system seems to be stronger against all variant strains. This gives us hope that a variant strain could be treated, especially for death or hospitalisation, with the current vaccines.

According to him, T cells do not respond only to spike proteins but also recognize a wider range of antigens.

When asked about Omicron specifically, he replied: “Our hope as scientists that protection against death and hospitalisation will continue to be intact.” 

Today’s SAGE papers suggested that Britain would not be virus-free in the next five years, contrary to the hope of boosters. 

Experts suggest that some kind of measure will be required for the next half-decade, and constant monitoring is necessary to avoid future waves once Omicron has ended. 

SAGE stated that SARS-CoV-2 would continue to pose a risk to the health system and will require active management. Vaccination and surveillance will be key for at most five years.

Britains vaccines minister Maggie Throup last night told Brits they ‘probably will’ have to get a coronavirus booster jab every year.

Ms. Throup referred specifically to the Government’s most recent vaccine purchase, 114million doses of new vaccines that will be available in 2022 and 2023.

Following Dr Albert Bourla’s announcement that annual vaccinations were ‘likely’ to be necessary, comments were made on BBC’s Question Time. 

This week, the Government declared that it would buy an additional 114 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. These will be distributed over two years.

The purchase led to speculation that the Brits may be offered another jab or even a fifth in the future.