The findings, from the UK Health Security Agency (HSA), suggest Omicron is causing “an increase in overall reinfection rates, alongside an increase in first infections”
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Around one in 20 Omicron cases identified in England have been linked with a previous infection of Covid-19, according to new data.
Of 5,153 individuals identified with an Omicron infection between November 1 and December 11, 305 (5.9%) were connected to a previous confirmed infection and were at least 90 days from previously testing positive.
The findings, from the UK Health Security Agency (HSA), suggest Omicron is causing “an increase in overall reinfection rates, alongside an increase in first infections”.
The age range of these cases ranged from six to 68 years, while there were four people for whom Omicron was their third coronavirus infection.
The HSA also found that lateral flow (LFD) tests are as likely to detect Omicron as other variants of coronavirus.
Dr Jenny Harries, HSA’s chief executive, said: “Our data shows that LFD tests are similarly able to detect COVID-19 in individuals who have been exposed to Omicron as in those exposed to previous variants. This is very encouraging.
“As we all work to limit the high levels of transmission of this variant over the Christmas period, we are urging people to test regularly, particularly before attending social gatherings.
“As always, the booster vaccine remains the best protection against infection. Please come forward to receive your booster as soon as possible.”
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It comes as Boris Johnson warned a “big wave” of Omicron is now “coming through” as the leaders of Scotland and Wales voiced their alarm – and businesses begged for urgent financial support.
The Prime Minister said the Covid variant is a “very serious threat to us now” after daily confirmed cases exploded to 88,376 in yesterday’s update.
He added: “We are seeing a considerable wave coming through, and people have got to be prepared and they’ve got to understand what it takes.”
Yet he did not announce any new restrictions, with speculation that he could bring in extra Covid rules only after Christmas.
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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – who has asked Scots to socialise only with two other households at a time – today said the R number of Omicron is “possibly above four”.
She added: “The tsunami I warned about a week ago is now starting to hit us”.
Officially the R rate for Covid in England, updated today, is 1.0 to 1.2.
But this figure has a lag time of two to three weeks and applies to all variants.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for the UK Health Security Agency, said the R number for Omicron had “broad brush estimates of between 3 and 5 at the moment.”
This means every person infected passes the virus to between three and five others.
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Meanwhile, a runny nose has been confirmed as a top symptom of the Omicron Covid variant, according to the ZOE Covid study.
The study has created a new symptom profile for Omicron after having focused on an initial analysis of positive cases in London, where the virus is surging.
Whilst a loss of taste and smell were once amongst the top symptoms, ZOE found that a runny nose now tops the list.