Omicron: Javid confirms community transmission of Covid strain after cases found in ‘multiple regions’
The Health Secretary confirmed that the new variant is now circulating within the community, with those with no international travel links testing positive for the strain.
The Health Secretary told parliament today (Monday 6 December) that the newest strain has been found in “multiple regions of England”, with those testing positive not connected to international travel.
The warning comes amid rising cases of the new variant in the UK.
At a glance: 5 key points
- Sajid Javid has updated MPs over the UK’s situation regarding Omicron, which was first reported in the country 10 days ago
- The Health Secretary said that the strain was no longer confined to those who have recently travelled internationally and confirmed that community transmission had been recorded
- Currently, there are 336 recorded cases of the Omicron variant in the UK
- The strain has raised fears over its potential ability to evade vaccines and a higher rate of reinfections of those who had already tested positive
- The UK is continuing to use its vaccine and booster programme to defend citizens from the virus, however Javid confirmed that there are no guarantees yet that the Omicron strain would not “knock us off our road to recovery”
What did Sajid Javid say?
Speaking to MPs, the Health Secretary confirmed that the government was keeping a close eye on the development of the Omicron strain after discovering that community transmission of the variant had begun.
He said: “We are learning more about this new variant all the time.
“Recent analysis from the UK Health Security Agency suggests that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant than for the Delta variant, but we don’t yet have a complete picture of whether Omicron causes more severe disease or indeed how it interacts with the vaccines.
“We can’t say for certain at this point whether Omicron has the potential to knock us off our road to recovery.
“We are leaving nothing to chance. Our strategy is to buy ourselves times and to strengthen our defences while our world-leading scientists assess this new variant and what it means for our fight against Covid-19.”
The UK is continuing to ramp up its vaccine and booster effort in an attempt to curb rising infections, while much of Europe, including Germany and Austria, are seeing lockdowns imposed.
The country recently introduced international travel rules and also reintroduced self-isolation rules to help stop the spread of Covid and the Omicron strain.
Javid said: “When this new variant is appearing in more and more countries every day we also need to look beyond the red list and strengthen our measures for a wider range of travellers to make sure they give us the protection we need against this potential threat.”
What did MPs say about the Omicron variant?
Former Prime Minister, Theresa May warned the Health Secretary of imposing lockdown restrictions further down the line as a result of the newest strain’s rising cases.
He said: “The early indications of Omicron are that it is more transmissible but potentially leads to less serious illness than other variants.
“I understand that would be the normal progress of a virus. Variants will continue to appear year after year.
“When is the Government going to accept that learning to live with Covid, which we will all have to do, means we will almost certainly have an annual vaccine and that we cannot respond to new variants by stopping and starting sectors of our economy which leads to businesses going under and jobs being lost?”
Javid responded: “In terms of the severity of this, I think we shouldn’t jump to any conclusion, we just don’t have enough data.
“It is not going away … for many, many years and perhaps it will lead to annual vaccinations, but we have to find ways to continue with life as normal.”
How many cases of Omicron are currently in the UK?
Within England, Wales and Scotland, 336 cases of the Omicron strain have been found.
261 of the cases had been found in England, where Javid confirmed transmission throughout the community.
71 were found in Scotland. It comes after cases were found to be linked to a concert at Glasgow’s OVO Hydro, with Scottish First Minister confirming last week that community transmission was suspected as a result.
The four remaining cases were found in Wales.
Despite 336 cases so far being found within the UK, Javid confirmed that as far as he was made aware, there were no people admitted to hospital with the strain.
Overall, 51,459 Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK as of 9am on Monday 6 December.
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