Sajid Javid has said that Omicron cases within the UK could “exceed one million” by the end of December after revealing that data has shown the strain to be “significantly more transmissible” than previous variants.
At the same time as Mr Javid’s announcement, Boris Johnson revealed that England would be moving to ‘Plan B’ restrictions as a result of surging cases.
At a glance: 5 key points
- Mr Javid has told MPs that the Omicron strain is “significantly more transmissible” than the previous Delta variant
- He told the House of Commons that cases of Omicron in the UK could “exceed one million” after revealing that numbers had doubled in the past week
- Currently there are 568 confirmed Omicron cases in the UK, however Mr Javid said that the real number may be 20 times higher at around 10,000 cases
- The warning came as Boris Johnson announced that England would be moving to ‘Plan B’ restrictions over Christmas
- This includes the reintroduction of face masks to more venues, working from home and a vaccine pass introduced in more venues
What did Sajid Javid say?
Speaking to fellow MPs, Mr Javid updated parliament about the emergence of the Omicron strain in the UK.
He said: “We’re confident that Omicron is significantly more transmissible than Delta.”
“There is still a lot to learn, but some important data has emerged recently.”
“It is far more transmissible than the Delta variant.”
The Health Secretary said that the Omicron strain had made Covid-19 “an even more formidable foe”, adding that recorded cases of the variant had doubled in the past seven days.
Currently, there are 568 confirmed Omicron cases in the UK.
Mr Javid said that Omicron had given the UK Government a “cause for concern” due to the escalating cases, adding that the accurate number of cases of the strain could be sitting at 10,000.
UK faces ‘perilous winter’
Mr Javid’s update to MPs came at the same time as Boris Johnson confirming that England would move into ‘Plan B’ restrictions.
The Prime Minister confirmed what many had expected, with working from home where possible re-introduced, vaccine passports introduced to venues such as cinemas and theatres and a face mask requirement in more venues.
Mr Javid said that the move to ‘Plan B’ comes amid the rise in Omicron cases.
He said: “When we set out Plan B, we said that we would act if the NHS was likely to come under unsustainable pressure and with that risk of being able to provide the care and treatment that people need. The Omicron variant has given us cause for concern.”
Mr Javid also confirmed that vaccine manufacturers may have new vaccines ready to trial “within weeks” if needed, over questions whether the Omicron variant can evade current vaccine protection.
He added: “There will have to be a trial to make sure they are safe and effective. But there may be cases where they could be used in emergency situations.”
Mr Javid praised the vaccine rollout as a defence against Omicron, adding: “Thanks to these defences and our decision to open up in the summer rather than the winter we are much better protected than we were this time last year and we need this protection now more than ever.
“Because although Omicron is becoming more and more prevalent, over the next few days and weeks we will be seeing Delta and Omicron variants circulating together. Facing these twin threats without these pharmaceutical defences would have been hard enough but even with them in place, we still face a perilous winter.”
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