By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 11 December 2021 • 14:46
A study carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says that Omicron infections are doubling every two to four days. At the rate of current transmission the researchers believe that there will be a major in January without further restrictions put in place.
The scientists involved in the study say there is still uncertainty around the modelling which has yet to be peer reviewed, but in a worst-case scenario tougher restrictions may be needed to stop hospitals from being overwhelmed. Current predictions are that the number of deaths from variants could range between 25 and 75 thousand by April depending on how well the vaccines perform.
One of the researchers Dr Nick Davies, said Omicron was spreading “very fast”, was “quite concerning” and was likely to be the dominant form of the virus in England by the end of the year.
The report highlights the rapid increase in cases which it says are doubling every two to four days despite the high level of vaccinations. This is faster than the rate at which the original virus spread and without any vaccinations.
Dr Davies said: “Based on what we’re seeing we can expect there to be a large wave of Omicron in the UK.”
The scientists looked at all scenarios, optimistic and pessimistic, to see what the impact of the new variant might be, There is however, uncertainty over the results as there is little evidence yet on how well the vaccines will perform although it does work on the basis that the outcome is likely to be less severe given the vaccination levels.
In the most optimistic scenario the numbers being admitted to hospitals every day would be 40% lower than the peak last winter. In the most pessimistic scenario it would be nearly twice as high. The research also looked at the impact of new restrictions on the Omicron wave.
“I think our projections are worrying” says Dr Davies, “it doesn’t paint an optimistic picture.” Continuing he said “tougher curbs were terrible for people’s physical wellbeing and their mental wellbeing, and this needed to be carefully weighed up.”
Speaking about the most optimistic scenario Dr Rosanna Barnard, one of the researchers, said: “In our most optimistic scenario, the impact of Omicron in the early part of 2022 would be reduced with mild control measures such as working from home.” Speaking about the pessimistic scenario she said “Mask-wearing, social distancing and booster jabs are vital, but may not be enough.”
“Nobody wants to endure another lockdown, but last-resort measures may be required to protect health services if Omicron has a significant level of immune escape or otherwise increased transmissibility compared to Delta.”
More data is needed but early studies by the UK Health Security suggest a booster dose raised protection to 75%. More people may need a booster or restrictions may become necessary very soon with Omicron infections doubling every two to four days.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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