Omicron Edition: United Kingdom, a laboratory for the rest of Europe?

While the situation in Europe was less worrisome than elsewhere, the United Kingdom is preparing for a new peak of infections due to COVID-19. The Omicron variant appears to spread even faster there than in South Africa. And, if it is not yet certain how big the wave will be, the scientific community is concerned about its consequences.

The British government this week announced new health restrictions on the new version. Those who may be encouraged to “telecom when possible” from next week. Downing Street has also introduced sanitary passes for nightclubs and large events and performance venues.

For epidemiologist John Edmonds, a member of the UK government’s scientific council, speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine webinar on Thursday, Omicron’s transmission to the UK is a “real return to the rear” in hopes of controlling the pandemic.

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The British Health Protection Agency, given the current pace of spread of the new variant, warned in a statement that it “expects to see at least 50% of Covid-19 cases due to Omicron within two to four weeks”. “. Since its appearance, the Omicron variant in the United Kingdom had detected 817 cases of COVID-19, including 249 new cases for Thursday alone, more than double the previous day. And the true number is undoubtedly much higher. For Professor John Edmonds, the new measures aren’t much – even if Omicron is currently less dangerous than the delta version in the majority.

It will take several weeks for scientists to analyze the severity of this wave caused by omicrons in the country. Most of the UK population is immunized either through a vaccine or through subsequent infection. In addition, the Pfizer laboratory published a study this week showing that the vaccine may be sufficient against the Omicron variant if a booster is given. John Edmonds cautioned that this was a particularly optimistic study, but reiterated the importance of recall “as soon as possible”.

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The first data on Omicron in Great Britain confirms what has been observed in South Africa: the variant is more contagious, and neither the vaccine, nor the previous infection guarantee total immunity to it. However, it appears to cause less severe forms. Data from South Africa show fewer cases leading to hospitalization.

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But the population there is much smaller than in the UK or the rest of Europe: the median age in South Africa is 27.4 years old, compared to 40.9 in the UK. In the United and European Union (EU) it is 43.7 years. Therefore, the South African population overall is at lower risk than in the United Kingdom. So Professor Edmonds believes there is not “an ounce of evidence” that Omicron is half pathogenic than Delta. And that, even if it did, its broadcast in the UK is still the “worst news possible”.

Interviewed for Jeffrey Barrett, a geneticist working on COVID statistics new York Times, one thing is certain with the current data: “Omicron will spread very quickly, even in countries with high vaccination rates such as the UK.” And at such a speed of spread, even a small percentage of hospitalizations can be enough to overwhelm medical services.

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The UK has a well established virus sequencing system. It is therefore able to obtain accurate data on the rapid course of Omicron. “It won’t take long for it to appear elsewhere,” says Jeffrey Barrett. “I think other countries should consider that the same will happen in their countries.” British scientists hope that monitoring for the variant will also shed light on the seriousness of the cases. It will also predict the effects of Omicron in other countries.

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"Development, no offense to its detractors, is a barometer of the country's enthusiasm and mood.", adores Ellen Ellen Madeleine

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Christoph Donner, author of Reflections on the Christoph Donner

diary of a liberal

"Clouds of social anger are building on the horizon.  So we must act both for the poor France put out of work and the now worried and strangling poor workers."by Ellen Madeleine

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