'Omicron will get through the UK population pretty quickly' JCVI member warns

13 December 2021, 08:34

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

JCVI member warns Omicron is "highly infectious, highly transmissible, and it will get through the UK population pretty quickly".

Boris Johnson has declared an "Omicron emergency" and warned people against thinking the new variant will not make them seriously ill.

Robert Read, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Southampton and a member of the Joint Committee for Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI), told LBC's Nick Ferrari that scientists already knew Omicron was "highly infectious, highly transmissible, and it will get through the UK population pretty quickly".

He said the severity of illness was not yet known but people were vulnerable, especially the unvaccinated.

He added: "Before, we were dealing with Delta and the evidence is that Omicron probably requires much larger amounts of antibody in the blood in order to thwart the virus as much as possible... we need to get those third doses into as many adults as we possibly can, just in case this virus turns out to be a raging bull just rather than a pussy cat."

The Prime Minister said there is evidence that Omicron is doubling in the UK every two to three days, adding that we know from "bitter experience" how exponential curves develop.

He said there is "no doubt" that the UK faces a "tidal wave" of Omicron infections.

He said it was "clear" that two doses of a vaccine are "simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need", but that a booster can bring the level of protection back up.

Mr Johnson said there are currently patients with Omicron in hospital, adding that at this point scientists cannot say the new variant is less severe than previous variants.

"And even if that proved to be true, we already know it is so much more transmissible that a wave of Omicron through a population that was not boosted would risk a level of hospitalisation that could overwhelm our NHS and lead sadly to very many deaths," he said.

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