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Omicron to become ‘dominant strain’ across world within weeks despite restrictive measures

Omicron variant to become ‘dominant strain’ says professor

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The Omicron variant was first reported two weeks ago, with cases now close to 340 across the whole of the UK. Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University, said the coronavirus mutations will become a “dominant” strain within weeks, and restrictions currently being adopted are unlikely to prevent its spread. Speaking to Channel 4 News, Dr Sridhar: “What we’re finding is that in places that have a quite good sequencing, look at Denmark, they are finding more and more cases of this.

“And look at the numbers in South Africa, which are literally going up vertically.

“This is likely to become a dominant strain not only here in Britain but across the world.

“And it’s a matter of weeks right now until we reach that point.”

She also criticised attempts by governments worldwide to curb the spread of the virus by shutting down flights from South Africa, where the new variant was first reported in November.

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Prof Sridhar continued: “The thing we also learned early on in this pandemic is the bulk of importations to Britain did not come from China.

“We were trying to screen flights from China. They came from parts of Europe, same with New York City – their importations came from Europe.

“Yeah, you could put one or two countries on a red list and then assume it won’t come into your country [but] I think it’s short-sighted.

“It’s also harmful to South Africa considering their scientists are the ones who rung the alarm bells.”

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Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there is now community transmission of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus across regions of England but it is too early to say if this will “knock us off our road to recovery”.

Defending the introduction of stricter rules to slow the spread of the virus, the Health Secretary told the Commons the Government is “leaving nothing to chance” while scientists assessed the variant.

He also now confirmed there are now 261 Omicron cases in England, 71 in Scotland, and four in Wales – a total of 336.

He said: “This includes cases with no links to international travel, so we can conclude there is now community transmission across multiple regions of England.”

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Boris Johnson said no further restrictions were currently needed to deal with the Omicron variant but refused to rule out imposing such measures before Christmas.

Survivors of the previous infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, known as SARS-CoV-2, may be at higher risk for re-infection with the Omicron variant than with earlier versions of the virus, according to preliminary findings.

In South Africa, where Omicron was first reported, researchers reviewed data on nearly 2.8 million infections and saw that while the risk of a first infection rose when the earlier Beta and Delta variants spread during the pandemic’s second and third waves, the risk of re-infection was low and did not change.

But last month, as Omicron spread, daily numbers of re-infections spiked, the researchers reported on Thursday on the website medRxiv ahead of peer review.

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