Omicron variant could be ‘Christmas gift’ and how we beat Covid for good, expert says

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One health expert called the Omicron variant a Christmas gift. It has so far caused no hospital admissions or death and he believes it could end the pandemic sooner

Professor Karl Lauterbach said Omicron is a Christmas gift
Professor Karl Lauterbach said Omicron is a Christmas gift

The coronavirus pandemic could be ended sooner than first feared thanks to the Omicron variant, a leading epidemiologist has claimed.

This new mutation is believed to have more milder symptoms than all previous variants and could mean coronavirus is treated more like the common cold.

Statistics from South Africa, where the variant was first detected and sequenced, has shown that there have been no hospital admissions and no deaths from people with Omicron.

Doctors also say people recover from it in just a few days after symptoms including tiredness, headache and muscle aches pass.

South African infectious disease expert Professor Salim Abdool Karim also believes existing Covid vaccines should be “highly effective” against the Omicron variant, although we won’t know for a few more weeks as more people become infected.

Prof Salim Abdool Karim
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CNN)

Professor Abdool Karim said: “Based on what we know and how the other variants of concern have reacted to vaccine immunity, we can expect that we will still see high effectiveness for hospitalisation and severe disease, and that protection of the vaccines is likely to remain strong.”

Professor Abdool Karim, who works at South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal and Columbia University in the United States, said no “red flags” had been raised so far about Omicron.

Professor Karl Lauterbach, a clinical epidemiologist who wants to be Germany’s next health minister, has called Omicron a “Christmas gift”.

He believes that the 32 mutations on the spike protein could mean it is optimised to infect people, rather than kill.

He added that is in line with how most respiratory viruses evolve and is good that coronavirus has reached this point.

The government was swift to act after the Omicron variant was first detected, bringing in PCR tests and self isolation rules for travellers arriving in the UK until they get a negative result.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wears a mask today at a vaccine centre
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It also made face coverings mandatory on public transport and in shops from this morning.

Children in senior schools along with staff and visitors must all wear face masks in school and all people aged 18 and over are to be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine.

The UK Health Security Agency has identified two further cases of the Omicron variant in England, bringing the total to five while six cases have also been identified in Scotland.

Professor Paul Moss, from the Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the University of Birmingham and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, was asked if people need to cancel their Christmas plans.

Police officers patrol Victoria Station as face masks become compulsory
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He told Sky News: “I don’t think we need to worry too much about that at this stage… the measures that we’ve got in place have a good chance of gaining some control here.

“The two ways that we’re adopting to try and control this are: one, in behavioural change to reduce transmission: the travel restrictions; more lateral flows; masking.

“And the second big factor is the immunity and we know that we may lose some immunity with this virus. So what is happening is we are boosting our immune levels to super-high levels with the plans that were introduced yesterday, and that should retain some protection.

“What we’ve seen with Covid is that things change very rapidly. And I think we need at least three weeks to assess this.

Commuters on the Tyne and Wear Metro train system as face masks come back in
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North News & Pictures northnews.co.uk)

“We need excellent epidemiology and within the laboratory people are testing the resistance of the virus against vaccinated samples. So we will need that sort of time. And we will know a lot more before Christmas.”

He added: “You probably saw that the doctor in South Africa who initially identified it had seen relatively mild cases, which is very encouraging.

“However, you know, that’s a much younger population.

“It’s the elderly population, we need to worry about – in South Africa only 6% are above 65 years whereas we’ve got a much higher proportion.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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