Leaked minutes of a meeting of the government’s scientific advisers, held on Tuesday, revealed hospital admissions from the Omicron variant could reach 1,000 a day by the end of the year
Government advisors have warned hospital admissions from the Omicron variant could reach 1,000 a day by the end of the year if extra restrictions aren’t put in place.
Leaked minutes of a meeting of the government’s scientific advisers held on Tuesday revealed the shocking numbers.
While the predictions around the Omicron variant were dramatic, the overall scale of hospitalisations is still uncertain.
But the figures, which had been seen by the BBC, made clear that an urgent response was needed to reduce spread and pressure on the NHS.
It comes as Boris Johnson announced this evening that government guidelines would include advice to work from home due to the scale of the variant.
Such changes raise concerns about Christmas festivities, as families hope to gather for celebrations after a difficult festive period in 2020.
The Prime Minister is already facing a growing backlash for a Christmas Party reported to have been held in Downing Street last year while much of the country was under tough restrictions.
The government is currently trying to slow the spread of the Omicron variant to allow for more people to get their booster jabs.
The UK has reported 131 new cases of the variant today, the UK Health Security Agency confirmed.
The total total number of confirmed cases of the mutant strain now stands at 568.
There is growing early evidence that booster vaccine doses could be an effective defence against the Omicron variant, despite the strain being the most mutated variant of the virus detected so far.
BioNTech and Pfizer said today a three-shot course of their vaccines produced a neutralising effect on the new Omicron strain in a laboratory test.
The announcement was the first statement from the manufacturers on the likelihood of their shots being effective against the variant.
They added that a vaccine targeting the rapidly spreading strain could be delivered by March next year.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) comprises around 30 scientists, who offer advice to the government on how to react to the pandemic in the UK.
Minutes of their latest meeting this week said it was “highly likely” the new Omicron strain would account for the majority of new coronavirus infections in the UK within “a few weeks”.
“With the speed of growth seen, decision makers will need to consider response measures urgently to reduce transmission if the aim is to reduce the likelihood of unsustainable pressure on the NHS,” they continued.
Scientists also cautioned the peak of the wave was “highly likely to be higher” than 1,000 – 2,000 Omicron hospital admissions per day without new rules to slow the spread of rising infections.
According to the latest seven-day average, there were currently around 680 people being admitted to hospital each day with the Delta variant in England.
In comparison, hospitals were admitting 3,811 Covid patients a day at the peak of the last winter wave.
Another point that was not yet clear was whether Omicron would replace infections from the older Delta variant or whether both strains would spread simultaneously.
Scientists also said the rate and other specifics around the spread would depend on the degree to which they infected different groups or demographics of people.
The minutes from the meeting went on to say: “Evidence suggests that measures could be reintroduced with expectation of a similar level of adherence as has been seen in the past.
“Adherence is likely to be higher if messaging and policy have clear rationales and are consistent.”
Other points covered by the advisors were that the number of omicron infections in the UK was now increasing rapidly, with evidence of community transmission.
Hospital admissions from Omicron were expected to follow soon.
Taking measures which would slow or delay the Omicron-driven wave of infections would allow more time for vaccination. This could aid the situation in ensuring increasing coverage and booster shots of existing vaccines.
The current speed of growth meant decision makers needed to consider response measures urgently.
If the aim was to reduce the likelihood of unsustainable pressure on the NHS, transmission needed to be reduced.
SAGE scientists also stated that the reduction in severity of disease from Omicron would not avert high numbers of hospitalisations, if growth rates remained as high as they were currently.