Health Sec warns Omicron cases could exceed one million by end of December

8 December 2021, 21:33

The Health Secretary has issued a warning about the new Covid variant
The Health Secretary has issued a warning about the new Covid variant. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The Health Secretary has warned the public that cases of the Omicron variant could exceed one million by the end of December.

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Addressing the House of Common this afternoon, Sajid Javid painted a grim picture of the "current trajectory" of the new coronavirus variant.

Speaking to politicians, he said: "Although there are only 568 confirmed Omicron cases in the UK we know that the actual number of infections will be significantly higher.

"The UK Health Security Agency estimates that the number of infections are approximately 20 times higher than the number of confirmed cases, and so the current number of infections is probably closer to 10,000.

"UKHSA also estimate that at the current observed doubling rate of between two and a half and three days, by the end of this month, infections could exceed 1 million."

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The UKHSA also said it is likely that Omicron will become the dominant strain in Britain, taking over the Delta variant.

In a new risk assessment, it said it expects at least 50 per cent of Covid-19 cases to be caused by the Omicron variant in the next two to four weeks.

The risk assessment also suggests Omicron shows a "reduction in protection" given by previous infection or vaccination, but new studies are being undertaken to assess this further.

Mr Javid's warning comes after the Prime Minister announced the government's 'plan B' to tackle coronavirus.

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The Prime Minister said that people should work from home "if they can" as of Monday.

The mask mandate will be extended from Friday and the Covid vaccine pass will be mandatory in certain venues such as nightclubs.

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said there was an "incredibly steep" increase in cases in South Africa, where Omicron was first detected, and "we are now seeing this translate into increases in hospitalisations".

He said there was some data suggesting "around about a 300% increase in hospitalisations over the last week".