Omicron: Tougher restrictions needed to stop hospital admissions soaring, scientists warn

18 December 2021, 11:48 | Updated: 18 December 2021, 11:50

Sage scientists have warned hospital admissions could soar to 3,000 per day.
Sage scientists have warned hospital admissions could soar to 3,000 per day. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Hospital admissions could soar to 3,000 a day if further action is not taken "very soon" to slow the spread of the Omicron variant, the government's scientific advisers have warned.

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Leaked minutes from a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) meeting, seen by the BBC, reveals that experts told ministers to enact the same “stringent measures” that were in place last Spring.

These included a ban on indoor mixing and indoor hospitality.

During the Sage meeting, advisers warned the timing of such measures is "crucial" to ensuring the NHS does not become overwhelmed as seen in previous waves of the virus.

They said: "Delaying until 2022 would greatly reduce the effectiveness of such interventions and make it less likely that these would prevent considerable pressure on health and care settings.”

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And they reportedly warned against delaying further interventions until 2022.

An emergency COBRA meeting has been called this weekend so the UK's leaders can talk about how to stop the spread of the Omicron strain of Covid-19.

A Government spokesperson said: "The Government will continue to look closely at all the emerging data and we'll keep our measures under review as we learn more about this variant."

It comes as the UK reported more than 90,000 new Covid cases in another record daily total on Friday.

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Venues like Wembley Stadium and Bluewater shopping centre are among thousands turning into vaccine centres this weekend so more people can get a jab, or a booster.

As of Friday, more than half of adults in the UK have had their booster jab following a rallying call from the Prime Minister for people to come forward.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup says it's vital people also keep testing themselves using lateral flow tests, available online, in pharmacies and at some community centres.

She said they have boosted the number of PCR kits and lateral flow tests that have been delivered in the last week, with the help of Royal Mail.

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Deliveries have gone from 400,000 per day to 900,000, she said.

Currently, under 'Plan B', face masks are mandatory in shops, theatres, cinemas and on public transport.

People have also been advised to work from home where possible, and Covid passes - proof of a double vaccine or negative test - have been reintroduced for nightclubs and large venues, such as football stadiums.

There is set to be a review into 'Plan B' measures on or close to Tuesday January 4.