A leading expert has warned that Omicron is “eye wateringly high” and uncertainties remain over the impact this is having on the NHS.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the global charitable foundation Wellcome, warned that “we’re in the most difficult, most uncertain time, perhaps of the whole pandemic, certainly since March of 2020.”
Sir Jeremy warned there is “great uncertainty” as more data will be available today and on Wednesday and if transmissions are increasing with hospitilisations he “would act.”
Sir Jeremy told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “Omicron is spreading unbelievably fast. It is a phenomenal variant, transmission is eye-wateringly high, but there is great uncertainty.
“What is it going to lead to in terms of pressure on the health system, people going to hospital, people dying, but also what impact is it going to have on the broader society, staff absences, the ability to have functioning other services? So there is great uncertainty.
“My personal view is that I think we can wait at the moment until there are more restrictions formally placed, but each of us can do a lot of things today that would make the chances of further restrictions lighter.
“More data will be available today and tomorrow and I would act on those if transmission is rising still and if hospitalisations are going up across the country.”
He added, “At the moment, with the incredibly difficult policy and political decisions that need to be made, this is a time of great uncertainty, but I think waiting for that data for the formal decisions doesn’t mean to say that all of us can’t do what we can do over the coming days and weeks to reduce the chance of transmission and all of our sectors suffering and the economic damage that comes from that.”
Sir Jeremy said people can make sure they wear a mask, test regularly, avoid crowded indoor gatherings and increase ventilation and also warned that restrictions could be needed “before Christmas.”
He said, “There is data coming out today and if it does show the transmission is continuing to rise and if hospitalisations in London and across the rest of the country are starting to rise, then the Government will have to act before Christmas…”
Cabinet Office Minister Steve Barclay told LBC Radio, that the government are telling people to continue with Christmas, “but do so in a cautious way.”
The Cabinet Office Minister was asked if a circuit breaker lockdown after Christmas could happen, he said Ministers will “look closely at the data.”
Barclay added, “There is much we still don’t know about the severity of Omicron, how it leads to hospital admissions.
“We are looking particularly at the London data, there is a higher prevalence of Omicron particularly in London.”