Omicron: Whitty warns of ‘two epidemics on top of one another’
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In a press conference, Professor Chris Whitty said the Omicron variant was spreading at an “absolutely phenomenal pace” and warned that it was “a really serious threat” for the country. On Wednesday, the UK recorded its highest number of daily COVID cases since the start of the pandemic, with 78,610 new infections.
According to the latest available data, daily hospital admissions for Covid-19 have increased moderately in the latest week, averaging 760 in England in the seven days through Monday.
So far, one person with Omicron has died, 11 other people confirmed to have the variant are in the hospital, and another five hospitalised people are suspected of having Omicron.
Things could get even worse in hospitals according to Mr Whitty as he said there could be “significant gaps in rotas” in the NHS over the next few weeks.
The “very sharp peak” expected from the new variant will cause high numbers of staff to be ill at the same time.
Incidentally, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers could be asked to work between departments and trusts to replace their infected counterparts.
Professor Whitty told the Downing Street press conference: “In advance of the situation of large numbers of people ending up in the hospital, vast numbers of people in society, and that includes doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, are going to get Covid at the same time.
“This will be a very sharp peak, and there will be significant problems of people providing staff to man and to generally be able to look after any part of the health and social care system we might end up with quite substantial gaps in rotas at short notice.
“Given how much difficulty my health and social care colleagues have had over the past two years saying that is pretty depressing, because they have really had to stand up and go back again and again, but the reality is this speed of onset is going to lead to lots of people getting ill simultaneously and we have to be realistic about that.”
Chris Witty also warned that an increasing number of Omicron patients would indeed be going into the hospital and intensive care.
The World Health Organisation’s special envoy on COVID-19, Dr David Nabarro, told SkyNews that no one should dismiss Omicron as mild.
He said: “Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases will once again overwhelm health systems.
“We have enough information in the World Health Organisation to indicate very clearly that this spreads super fast with a doubling time of numbers of cases every two to three days.”
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He added: “There are two epidemics going on; Delta and Omicron. And it is an emergency situation for the British health service.
“It will get extremely serious within the next two weeks, perhaps quicker.”
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