Europe

New Omicron cases double in one day as UK records another 3,201 infections

The UK has confirmed another 3,201 new cases of Omicron variant in the past 24 hours.

It brings the total number of confirmed cases of the new and highly transmissible Covid strain in the country to 14,909.

Today’s figure is nearly double the 1,691 Omicron infections reported yesterday – demonstrating just how quickly it is spreading.

Health experts have warned that the true number of cases in the community is likely to be higher than the official toll.

Yesterday saw the highest ever daily total of Covid infections – with 88,376 positive results.

It represented a 31.4% rise week-on-week, although this is partly because so many more tests are being taken.

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In England, the R number – measuring the speed at which Covid-19 reproduces – has risen to between 1.0 and 1.2. This compares to a range of 0.9-1.1 last week.

The current rate means that every 10 infected people will on average pass the virus to between 10 and 12 others. An R rate below 1 means the outbreak is in decline.

All eyes are watching whether Omicron causes severe disease among the tens of thousands now infected, which could put a huge strain on the NHS.

Yesterday Professor Chris Whitty, said there is now enough evidence to suggest the new strain is at least no more serious than Delta.

England’s chief medical officer warned it is too early to suggest it is less deadly. During a select committee hearing, he told MPs: ‘It may be slightly milder, it may be the same. We don’t know.’ 

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Doctors in South Africa, where the variant first took hold, have gone on record saying hospitalisations have tracked at a lower rate than would have been expected with previous variants.

But UK experts have been reluctant to endorse that analysis without further evidence.

Meanwhile British researchers have analysed the likely impact having the booster shot will have on Omicron.

Scientists from Imperial College London say it could provide 85% protection against severe illness from the variant.

While the protection from vaccines is a bit less compared to previous versions of the virus, early data suggests a top-up dose should keep many people out of hospital.

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