UK scientists call for more restrictions to combat Omicron rise

LONDON – The UK government may need to introduce tougher restrictions to slow the growth of the Omicron variant and prevent a new surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, scientists say He said on Saturday.

UK health officials say Omicron is spreading much faster than the delta strain and will likely replace it and become the dominant variant in the UK within the next few days. The UK recorded 58,194 cases of coronavirus on Friday, the highest number since January, although what part of the Omicron variant is still unclear.

Fears of the new variant have prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government to reintroduce restrictions that were lifted nearly six months ago. Most indoor establishments must wear masks, vaccination certificates must be presented to enter nightclubs, and people are urged to work from home if possible.

Many scientists say that is unlikely to be enough.

Modeling published Saturday by scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine shows that Omicron is likely to cause a major wave of infections in January and could cause between 25,000 and 75,000 deaths. deaths in the UK over the next five months if no other measures are taken.

The most pessimistic scenario forecasts half a million hospitalizations for the virus by the end of April and says daily hospitalizations could be twice as high as the previous peak in January 2021. Academics, who help advise the British government, disagree.

The number of infections will depend on how well the variant escapes protection from the vaccine and how effective the booster shots are in fortifying immunity, both of which are still unclear.

Scientists in South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, say they see signs it may cause less severe disease than delta, but caution that it’s too early to be sure.

“In our most optimistic scenario, the impact of omicrons in early 2022 would ease with mild control measures such as work at home. “However, our most pessimistic scenario suggests that we may have to endure more stringent restrictions to ensure (health services) are not overwhelmed.”

Johnson’s government has said it is not considering tougher measures, but aims to give everyone 18 years of age and older a booster shot of the vaccine by the end of January.

Britain’s Health Security Agency said on Friday that both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines appear to be less effective at preventing symptomatic infection in people exposed to omicrons, despite preliminary data showing Efficacy appears to increase from 70% to 75% after the third dose of vaccine.


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