There may already be more than 1,000 Omicron Covid cases in the UK, a leading scientist has suggested.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease specialist at the University of East Anglia, said there were concerns that the Omicron version of the coronavirus was “spreading more quickly than the delta version”.
“The likelihood of it spreading to the UK is still uncertain, but I think the early signs are that it will probably spread very quickly and probably start to move out of the delta and possibly within the next week or a month or less. will become a major version,” Prof Hunter told BBC Breakfast on Monday morning.
His estimate of 1,000 UK cases is four times the number officially confirmed by British health officials.
However, there was not yet enough evidence to know whether Omicron affected people more severely infected than Delta.
“Emerging data from South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first discovered, is difficult to translate to the UK, because our vaccination rates are high,” he said.
“The big remaining question is exactly how harmful is it if you get Covid with this Omron version, and that’s the question we’re struggling to answer right now.”
When South African scientists first announced that they had identified a new and potentially vaccine-resistant variant, the British government immediately closed its borders to travelers from countries in southern Africa, and has since entered the UK. Testing requirements have been tightened for all others.
However, Professor Hunter said he did not believe these measures would make a significant difference in preventing the spread of omicrons in the UK.
“One of the problems with this kind of travel ban is that it prompts other countries to be really open about their situations for fear of what they see as economic sanctions.
“So I think once the infection is spreading in a country, the border restrictions don’t really add anything.
“We’ve known this long before Covid. It’s knowledge we’ve had for decades, if not centuries, to be honest.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /