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COVID-19: Growing fears over threat of latest Omicron variant impacting Christmas | UK Information

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There are rising fears a newly found COVID-19 variant, stated to be probably extra harmful than the one inflicting waves of an infection all over the world, may affect Christmas.

With simply 4 weeks to go earlier than tens of millions of households expect to get collectively, the journey plans of hundreds have been thrown into disarray.

It comes because the World Well being Group branded the newly named Omicron variant, additionally referred to as B.1.1.529, a “variant of concern”, placing it in the identical class as the Delta variant which has unfold rapidly all through the world.

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The speedy unfold of Delta is present accountable for sending some countries in Europe back into lockdown.

One scientist likened the state of affairs in South Africa, the place Omicron was first detected, to the emergence of the Alpha (Kent) variant within the UK final yr, which successfully cancelled Christmas for many of the UK.

As vaccine manufacturers say it could be weeks earlier than they may even take a look at any tailored jab in opposition to Omicron, there are rising calls among the many scientific group to take pressing motion rapidly.

Professor Sharon Peacock, director of COG-UK Genomics UK Consortium and professor of public well being and microbiology on the College of Cambridge, describing the state of affairs within the South African province the place the variant is being studied, stated: “This example is paying homage to the epidemiology of Alpha in Kent round a yr in the past.

“There was a surge in {cases}, nevertheless it was not clear whether or not this was on account of a number of super-spreader occasions or was related to a extra transmissible virus. The necessary distinction now could be that we now have efficient vaccines, and appreciable studying about variants has additionally accrued since then.

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How worrying is the brand new COVID variant?

“There are two approaches to what occurs subsequent: anticipate extra scientific proof – or act now and row again later if it wasn’t required.

“I consider that it’s higher to ‘go onerous, go early and go quick’ and apologise if mistaken, than to take an educational view that we have to attain a tipping level in proof earlier than motion is taken.”

Vaccine producers have expressed confidence that they are going to be capable to quickly adapt their jabs if the Omicron variant spreads regardless of early proof it brings an elevated threat of reinfection.

Pfizer and BioNTech stated they anticipate “to have the ability to develop and produce a tailored vaccine in opposition to that variant in roughly 100 days, topic to regulatory approval”.

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Biden requested about ‘worrying’ new COVID variant

Moderna stated it has superior a “complete technique to anticipate new variants of concern” and Novavax added it has already began making a COVID-19 vaccine for B.1.1.529 which might be prepared for “testing and manufacturing throughout the subsequent few weeks”.

When he was requested on Thursday what the emergence of Omicron would imply with Christmas approaching, as he imposed the brand new journey restrictions, Well being Secretary Sajid Javid stated: “We have got plans in place, as individuals know, for the unfold of this an infection right here within the UK and we now have contingency plans – the so-called Plan B.

“However as we speak’s announcement, that is a couple of new variant from South Africa – it has been detected in South Africa and Botswana – and that is about being cautious and taking motion and making an attempt to guard, as greatest we will, our borders.

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‘Enormous worldwide concern’ over variant

“From what we do know there is a vital variety of mutations, maybe double the variety of mutations that we now have seen within the Delta variant.”

Thus far, as of yesterday, Mr Javid stated there have been no detected {cases} of the Omicron variant within the UK, nevertheless it has been detected in Belgium – after being present in Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel and presumably Germany and the Czech Republic.

Different consultants stated it was inevitable that Omicron, or one other variant, would exchange the Delta variant and its offshoots, which currently account for almost all UK cases.

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Professional ‘expects’ new variant to be in UK

Professor Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious illness epidemiology on the College of Edinburgh, stated: “Nobody must be stunned by the looks of a brand new SARS-CoV-2 variant.

“The Delta variant might be changed ultimately, whether or not by this newest new variant – B.1.1.529 – or by another one. Ultimately we anticipate to be confronted with a variant that’s much more transmissible than Delta, or that’s higher at evading pure and vaccine-induced immunity, or each.”

Not all scientists expressed the identical diploma of concern, nonetheless.

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‘Our scientists are deeply involved’ – Javid

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, expressed cautious optimism that the vary of at present out there vaccines may stop severe illness from the Omicron variant.

He instructed BBC Radio 4’s At the moment programme that many of the Omicron’s mutations have similarities to these in different variants, including: “That tells you that regardless of these mutations present in different variants the vaccines have continued to stop severe illness as we have moved by way of Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.

“Not less than from a speculative standpoint we now have some optimism that the vaccine ought to nonetheless work in opposition to a brand new variant for severe illness however actually we have to wait a number of weeks to have that confirmed.

“It is extraordinarily unlikely {that a} reboot of a pandemic in a vaccinated inhabitants like we noticed final yr goes to occur.”

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