Fears of another lockdown in the UK are on the rise after new restrictions and the emergence of a new Covid variant, known as Omicron
Image: Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)
The idea of another lockdown in the UK due to Covid-19 is one dreaded by many, particularly so close to Christmas.
It stopped us from seeing many of our family and friends in 2020 and the start of 2021, and another full lockdown would likely see the return of social bubbles and heavy restrictions.
The new variant of the coronavirus, known as the ‘ Omicron variant ‘, is now leading to rising fears of stricter measures being put in place by prime minister Boris Johnson and the government.
Here’s what you need to know about the chances of another lockdown and Omicron.
Will there be another UK lockdown due to rising Omicron cases?
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Rising cases in Europe have led to restrictions and the most stringent measures have been put in place in Austria, where a lockdown has been extended until December 11.
Another lockdown in the UK is currently unlikely, however, and this is due to a number of reasons.
The first is that, unlike at the time of the last lockdowns, most of the UK’s population has been vaccinated. Recent figures show that 46.4 million people have been fully vaccinated, which is around 69% of the population.
The government hopes that a huge rise in cases and increased pressure on the NHS due to Omicron will be prevented by the vaccine, though they have reacted by encouraging all eligible adults to get their booster jab to increase immunity.
The other reason is that locking down over Christmas would likely have a significant economic impact. Hospitality outlets like bars and restaurants do not require people to have masks on in the hope that they would not face a hit due to the restrictions. The sector was hit particularly hard during the last lockdowns.
What is Omicron?
‘Omicron’ refers to the new variant of the virus that has been found and it is believed to have originated in South Africa.
Scientists are particularly worried about this variant as it has around 30 different mutations, this is around double that of the Delta variant which currently accounts for 15% of the UK’s cases, according to recent data.
Too little is currently known about how severe this mutant strain is and tests are currently being undertaken by the producers of vaccines, as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This means that it is not yet fully known if the vaccine will be a good enough defence against the new strain, although experts are currently fairly confident that it will be.
However, the BBC reported leaked minutes of a government SAGE meeting, which said the impact of Omicron is “highly uncertain” and that there could be a “potentially significant” wave of infections.
Are Omicron Covid cases rising?
There could well be many more, but at the time of writing there 22 cases of the Omicron variant have so far been identified in the UK. Nine of the cases were in London, with one in Liverpool, one in Norfolk, another in Nottingham and nine in Scotland.
It is by no means the dominant variant yet, but worries over how transmissible it is could indicate that the number of cases will rise.
Dr Jenny Harries, CEO of the UK Health Security agency, told The Guardian : “It is very likely that we will find more cases over the coming days as we are seeing in other countries globally and as we increase case detection through focused contact tracing.
“That’s why it’s critical that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately.”
Some believe the variant could be a good thing due to its reported ‘milder’ cold-like symptoms, and the possibility of it overtaking and dominating the Delta variant, but research by scientists is ongoing.