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December 9, 2021

The rise of omicron Covid cases in the U.K. is on such a steep trajectory that the country has been told to brace for one million cases by the end of the month. The UK Health Security Agency said Wednesday that omicron is displaying a significant growth advantage over the delta variant, “meaning that it is likely to outcompete delta in the U.K. and become the dominant variant.”

This assessment is based on analysis of U.K. data showing increased household transmission risk, increased secondary attack rates (the chance of each case infecting another individual) and increased growth rates compared to delta, the UKHSA said.

“If the growth rate and doubling time continue at the rate we have seen in the last 2 weeks, we expect to see at least 50% of coronavirus cases to be caused by omicron variant in the next 2 to 4 weeks,” it said in a statement.

Currently, the U.K. has recorded 568 confirmed cases of the variant, but the U.K.’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid told British lawmakers Wednesday evening that “we know that the actual number of infections will be significantly higher.”



The “twin threats”
“The UK Health Security Agency estimates that the [current] number of infections will be around 20 times higher than the number of confirmed cases and so the number of infections is closer to 10,000,” he said.

“At the current observed doubling rate of between two and a half and three days by the end of this month infections could exceed a million,” Javid warned, saying the U.K. faced what he called the “twin threats” from both omicron and the delta variant, which makes up the bulk, still, of global cases. Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London on Thursday that “the omicron data is enormously worrying,” pointing to the U.K’s 2.5-day doubling time of cases.

But Altmann stressed that the immunology landscape regarding omicron is not much worse than with the delta variant. “As in, if you’re an unvaccinated person or a two-dose vaccinated person who’s waned [whose vaccine immunity has waned] you’ve got essentially baseline protection, little protection against infection,”.

“If you’ve got booster, or have two doses plus prior infection, you’re probably in the safe protective zone and that’s looking true now in three different omicron studies, and in delta studies.”



Risk profile
The omicron variant was first spotted in South Africa in November and was reported to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24. The WHO labelled it a “variant of concern” two days later, noting it had mutations associated with increased transmissibility.

Since then, the variant has been identified in 57 countries across the world, according to the WHO’s latest tally, and there are increasing cases of community transmission with no links to travel.

Experts and vaccine makers have scrambled to assess the variant’s risk profile. They are particularly focused on how fast it spreads, whether it causes more severe illness and could lead to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths, and whether it will undermine Covid vaccines.

Preliminary data, small studies and anecdotal evidence suggest the omicron variant is more transmissible than delta, but causes milder illness, and could undermine the effectiveness of Covid vaccines currently in use.

However, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19 stressed Wednesday that it is “too early to conclude” that omicron symptoms are weaker. The WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added that omicron could change the course of the pandemic.

The U.K. went further on Wednesday, advising people who could to work from home and introducing stricter measures on mask-wearing and the use of Covid passes.

There have been several pieces of both positive and negative news regarding the omicron variant this week, but global financial markets have rallied in recent days as traders bet that the omicron Covid variant’s economic impact won’t be as severe as initially feared.



Fourth shot
Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla said on Wednesday that people might need a fourth Covid-19 shot sooner than expected, while many countries are racing to roll out third booster shots. Others are still trying to vaccinate their populations with the first set of shots, which help to reduce severe infection, hospitalization and death.












SOURCE: CNBC
IMAGE SOURCE: PIXABAY