PM: Omicron appears more transmissible than Delta

7 December 2021, 12:28 | Updated: 7 December 2021, 12:56

The Omicron variant is believed to be more transmissible
The Omicron variant is believed to be more transmissible. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson told Cabinet members that there are 'early indications' that the Omicron Covid variant is 'more transmissible' than Delta.

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The PM's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister said it was too early to draw conclusions on the characteristics of Omicron but that early indications were that it was more transmissible than Delta.

"Further measures were introduced this week to help slow transmission and further seeding of the variant, and the Prime Minister reiterated that booster vaccines remain our best defence against new and existing variants, with the NHS on course to meet the target of offering a booster to all adults by the end of January."

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Early data also suggests the variant is milder than the delta variant.

Many experts also believe that although Omicron will cause a wave of infection, vaccines should still by and large hold out against severe disease and death.

However scientists are still looking at the severity of disease caused by it and whether the current crop of jabs will work against it.

It comes as updated travel restrictions come into effect in England.

The changes mean all international travellers will need to take a pre-departure test before coming to the country.

Anyone travelling from countries not on the red list will be required to take a test a maximum of 48 hours before leaving, regardless of their vaccination status.

According to the latest data there are now 261 confirmed cases of the strain in England, 71 in Scotland and four in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases across the UK to 336.

It comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) slammed travel bans as ineffective and said they will not stop Omicron as it urged countries to stick to tried and tested methods.

WHO said vaccines and mask-wearing would help control its advance.

Speaking to reporters, Dr Hans Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe, said that bans on flights did not work and were too late "because Omicron is already everywhere".

Dr Catherine Smallwood, the senior emergency officer at the WHO Regional Office for Europe, said 43 countries in the European region had imposed travel restrictions because of Omicron.

"Disease outbreaks are contained at their source, not at their borders," she told the press briefing.

"And travel bans, though they may be easily accessible in terms of political decision-making, they are not effective in preventing spread of disease. They really are not effective."

She said bans on flights and other restrictions were "unfair" and had economic consequences "but most of all they're not effective".