Home Business News Top scientist ‘cautiously optimistic’ that infection rates driving Omicron epidemic could have plateaued

Top scientist ‘cautiously optimistic’ that infection rates driving Omicron epidemic could have plateaued

4th Jan 22 3:02 pm

Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London and who is a member of the government’s scientific advisory group Sage has said he believes cases should start to fall within three weeks.

Professor Ferguson who was instrumental in the March 2020 lockdown has said he is “cautiously optimistic” that infection rates which are driving Omicron could have started to peak.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said, “I think I’m cautiously optimistic that infection rates in London in that key 18 to 50 age group, which has been driving the Omicron epidemic, may possibly have plateaued.

“It’s too early to say whether they’re going down yet, but I think… this epidemic has spread so quickly in that group it hasn’t had time to really spread into the older age groups, which are at much greater risk of severe outcomes and hospitalisation, so we may see a different pattern in hospitalisations.

“Hospitalisations are still generally going up across the country and we may see high levels for some weeks.

“I would say that, with an epidemic which has been spreading so quickly and reaching such high numbers, it can’t sustain those numbers forever, so we would expect to see case numbers start to come down in the next week, maybe already coming down in London, but in other regions a week to three weeks.

“Whether they then drop precipitously, or we see a pattern a bit like we saw with Delta back in July of an initial drop and then quite a high plateau, remains to be seen.

“It’s just too difficult to interpret current mixing trends and what the effect of opening schools again will be.”

He said that Omicron did not have much time to infect school children prior to the Christmas break, but he warned there will be a rise in cases now they have returned.

The “good news” is that Professor Ferguson said, “We expect to now see quite high infection levels – of mild infection I should emphasise – in school-aged children.”

He added that Omicron “is certainly less severe” than previous variants of the virus which has helped keep hospital numbers low compared with previous peaks.

He continued, “And then the vaccines, as we always expected they would, are holding up against severe disease and against severe outcomes well.

“That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be as, as the Prime Minister said, a difficult few weeks for the NHS.”

There has been calls for the government to bring restrictions “without delay” as “tens of thousands” of NHS staff are off sick.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) penned a letter to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid warning the NHS cannot “afford” the level of staff absences and they have called for a more “cautious approach” to introduce restrictions.”

The Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup dismissed the calls for more restrictions as she said the government’s Plan B measures are “working” and “I don’t see no reason why we need to change,” she told Sky News.

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