Omicron variant latest – Frankenstein covid strain will 'dominate and overwhelm' world within 6 months, doctor warns

Millions of vaccines for future Covid booster campaigns have been secured – as it was claimed nearly 800,000 cancer patients were "missed" during the pandemic.

Some scientists have suggested that Covid-19 will need to be kept at bay with repeated vaccination campaigns while others have said it is too early to tell whether annual boosters will be needed.

While there is uncertainty over the need for future campaigns, the Government announced that it has signed deals for 114 million Moderna and Pfizer jabs which will be delivered in 2022 and 2023.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the deals "future proof" the country's vaccine programme.

Meanwhile, an estimated 740,000 urgent referrals for cancer have been "missed’"by England's GPs during the pandemic, new analysis from the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.

The report also warned the NHS backlog could swell to 12 million – or one in five people – by March 2025.

It lead MPs to warn that "things will get worse before getting better" with millions who avoided seeing or were unable to see a doctor during the pandemic now "missing" from waiting lists.

Read our Omicron live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Louis Allwood

    Harsher Covid restrictions may return (Continued…)

    George Freeman said: "All of us are hoping that this Christmas we'll be able to enjoy more freedom than we did last Christmas, but we're in this pandemic.

    "Hopefully this new variant isn't going to sweep through the country and we won't have to put in place those restrictions [like] last year.

    "Everyone should be able to plan for Christmas but we're going to have to be sensible. This new variant is worrying. We all have to be worried.

    "The more we can prevent the transmission of the virus the more we'll be able to enjoy the freedoms we all cherish."

  • Louis Allwood

    Harsher Covid restrictions may return

    The PM could have to impose harsher Covid restrictions this Christmas if Omicron spreads rapidly, a minister warned today.

    Gloomy business minister George Freeman said he hopes people will "be able to enjoy more freedom" this year despite the new variant.

    And he also insisted ordinary Brits can help by being "sensible" and wearing masks when on public transport and in shops.

    Mr Freeman revealed the Department of Business "won't be having a big Christmas party" adding: "Nobody would expect us to."

    Instead he and his team have decided they'll do their festive drinks on Zoom instead "given the new variant" threat.

  • Louis Allwood

    2,000 Sun readers sign up for Jabs Army

    2,000 Sun readers have already signed up for our brilliant Jabs Army.

    But we need to recruit at least 25,000 steward volunteers to make sure everyone gets a booster jab to protect against the new Omicron variant of Covid.

    Match of the Day host Gary Lineker, who has backed our campaign from day one, last night urged Sun readers to get involved.

    He said: “The Jabs Army Voluntary Service needs a shot in the arm. Help boost the boosters.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Brits should quarantine after travel for FIVE days

    Government scientists have called for people arriving in the UK to quarantine for five days and take a pre-departure PCR test to curb the spread of Omicron.

    SAGE experts warned of a potentially “very significant wave” as new measures to tackle the new Covid variant were introduced.

    Close contacts of anyone infected with Omicron must quarantine at home for 10 days, with flouters risking a £10,000 fine, with the new rule also applying to anyone who's had two jabs.

    Mandatory face coverings have been reintroduced in shops and on public transport.

    And travel rules have been beefed up with anyone double jabbed arriving in the UK having to isolate until they receive a negative Covid test result within two days.

    Anyone who is not double jabbed can choose to pay for a second Covid test on day five to release them from a ten-day quarantine period.

    But in leaked minutes from an emergency meeting about Omicron, SAGE boffins say anybody who has returned to the UK should self-isolate for five days instead.

  • Louis Allwood

    ‘I caught Omicron variant in LONDON around the same time it was discovered in South Africa’, doctor claims

    A doctor who was one of the world’s first people to be infected with the Omicron Covid variant believes he caught it in London, it was reported.

    Elad Maor was in the UK for a conference for three days until November 23, around the time the more virulent strain was detected by researchers in South Africa.

    The 45-year-old Israeli cardiologist stayed for four nights at a hotel in Islington and experienced symptoms after returning home, then tested positive on November 27.

    “I got the Omicron in London, for sure,” he told The Guardian.

    “That is interesting because that was 10 days ago in London – really, really early.”

    The father-of-three explained he took a PCR test on November 20 after arriving in the UK and again the next day, in accordance with Israeli travel regulations, with both results negative.

    When he arrived back in Tel Aviv on November 24, he had a third PCR test, which also came back negative.

    He said the only reasonable explanation is that he got infected on the last day of the meeting or possibly at the airport because the third PCR was too early to detect the infection.

  • Louis Allwood

    What are Omicron’s mutations?

    Of the 50 or so mutations, 32 are in the spike gene, including what’s called the binding domain.

    These are most likely to change how the virus interacts with the antibodies of the immune system, and how it enters human cells.

    The spike protein is a vital part of the virus that allows it to latch onto cells.

    It is also the target of Covid vaccines that were built against the original “Wuhan” strain of the coronavirus. Therefore, if the spike protein is drastically different, antibodies may fail to recognise Omicron.

    Raquel Viana, Head of Science at one of South Africa's biggest private testing labs, said she had "a sinking feeling" when she discovered the new strain while genetically testing positive swabs in the country.

    She told Reuters: "I was quite shocked at what I was seeing. I questioned whether something had gone wrong in the process."

  • Louis Allwood

    What are mutations?

    Mutations are changes in the virus that may, or may not, give the virus extra abilities, such as to spread faster.

    With so many mutations, it raises the possibilities that Omicron has a number of advantages above previous versions of Covid.

    The most concerning is that it will weaken the efficacy of our vaccines, which scientists will not know for certain for another couple of weeks. 

    Experts fear it could make the vaccines 40 per cent less effective in a best-case scenario, based on comparison with the Beta variant.

  • Louis Allwood

    Shocking graphic of Omicron reveals WHY scientists are so worried

    Images show how drastically mutated the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is. 

    Illustrations from the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) reveal the sheer number of changes on the virus's genetic makeup.

    Scientists have warned the Omicron variant has the most mutations they have ever seen.

  • Louis Allwood

    114m extra shots of variant-busting Covid jabs

    114 Million extra doses of variant-busting Covid jabs have been secured by Britain – as the country moves closer to the fourth dose.

    Ministers have announced fresh deals for additional Pfizer and Moderna shots over the next two years in a bid to protect our hard-won freedom.

    It includes access to modified vaccines that can tackle Omicron or other new variants of concern.

    Ministers said the bumper new contract will help the UK keep future waves of the pandemic “at bay”.

    Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “These new deals will future proof the Great British vaccination effort – which has so far delivered more than 115 million first, second and booster jabs across the UK – and will ensure we can protect even more people in the years ahead.

    “This is a national mission and our best weapon to deal with this virus and its variants is to get jabs in arms – so when you are called forward, get the jab and get boosted.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Covid drug Sotrovimab cuts risk of death by nearly 80% approved in UK

    The drug cuts the risk of death by nearly 80 per cent has been APPROVED in the UK amid the fight against Omicron.

    Xevudy (Sotrovimab) was given the green light as it's been deemed safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in Covid patients.

    The antibody treatment is most effective during the early stages of coronavirus illness – and should be administered within five days of showing symptoms.

    And clinical trials showed that the drug was able to reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death by 79 per cent among high-risk adults.

    It's too early to know whether or not the Omicron variant has any impact on how effective the drug will be.

    The ground breaking drug was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) this morning.

  • Louis Allwood

    Instructors and learners listen up

    The latest legislation states masks are required during driving lessons and tests.

    This includes vehicles of any class – and applies to both student and instructor.

    You do not, however, need to be covered up in your own vehicle.

  • Louis Allwood

    The new rules

    Face masks are once again compulsory in shops and on public transport, but not in pubs and restaurants.

    And new travel rules were introduced today for Brits returning from abroad.

    All Brits must now self-isolate for two days when returning from any country, and pay for a PCR test to be taken on or before day two.

  • Louis Allwood

    Symptoms of the new variant

    While experts are still learning about the variant – they say symptoms are milder.

    The most common symptoms so far are:

    • Fatigue
    • Body aches
    • Headache
    • Raise heart rate in children

    Most common Covid-19 symptoms determined by the NHS:

    • loss of taste or smell
    • high temperature
    • new persistant cough

    If you think you have Covid-19 you should get a test and isolate.

    What to do if you're worried about Omicron?

    Posting to TikTok, Dr Karan Rajan explained that the variant has several mutations, including those affecting the spike protein.

    He said: "More mutations does not always equal more danger.

    "We just don't have enough data about whether these mutations can cause more severe disease, or how they can affect vaccines effectiveness.

    "Whatever happens over the next few weeks one thing is for sure, and it's something we have seen with all variants.

    "Vaccines will still help to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalisation."

    Most vulnerable Brits will get FOUR Covid jabs

    THE most vulnerable in the country are set to get four coronavirus jabs in a race to stop the spread of the Omicron variant, an NHS chief has revealed.

    It comes as more cases of Omicron were today detected in the UK – now totalling 32.

    NHS England’s chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, today said that millions more people are eligible for boosters.

    Speaking at a Downing Street press conference this afternoon she said that the NHS would be following new advise from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

    She said: “The NHS Covid programme is in its most complex phase and is working at brake neck speed at this change in eligibility.

    “The JCVI has also recommended the introduction of a fourth jab for the most vulnerable, because they are undergoing chemotherapy or are having other problems with their immune system.

    “We will vaccinate the most vulnerable first and then open it up in other waves.”

    • Louis Allwood

      What protection should you have at work?

      According to government guidance, employers should:

      • Complete a Covid-19 risk assessment, and share it with all staff.
      • Clean more often, especially surfaces that people touch a lot. Staff and customers to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.
      • Remind visitors to wear face coverings where the law says they must.
      • Make sure everyone can maintain social distancing, for example putting up signs or introducing a one-way system.
      • Provide adequate ventilation by supplying fresh air to enclosed space where people are present. For example via windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both.
      • Take part in NHS Test and Trace.
      • Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away.
      • Arrange work spaces to keep staff apart.
      • Reduce face-to-face meetings.
      • Reduce crowding.

      Your employer does owe a duty of care to you and other members of staff.

      Travel restrictions

      International travel rules have also been tightened in a bid to stem the spread of Omicron.

      Ten more countries were placed on the red list, with only British or Irish citizens and UK residents allowed to enter the UK from these destinations.

      Anyone doing so must quarantine in a Government hotel for 10 days upon arrival in the UK.

      Passengers arriving in the UK from non-red list countries after 4am today must take a day-two PCR test and self-isolate until they get a negative result.

      And self-isolation rules will be brought back for contacts of people who test positive for Omicron.

      Those who have been in touch with someone who gets the new variant will have to self-quarantine for 10 days even if they’re vaccinated.

      The new curbs are set to be reviewed after three weeks as scientists scramble to learn more about Omicron.

      WFH rules?

      The rule to work from home was scrapped in the summer meaning people are not required to at the moment.

      However, some experts have called on the government to implement its Plan B to tackle the spread of Covid-19 – which includes the return of face coverings, working from home and vaccine passports.

      From Tuesday, November 30, it is once again compulsory to wear a face mask when visiting some public spaces including shops, hairdressers, nail salons and when using public transport.

      Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the country is “nowhere near” reintroducing working from home or social distancing measures to combat coronavirus. However, some companies are still allowing their employees to work from home, while others are implementing a mix of WFH and office work.

      Mr Javid told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “We know now those types of measures do carry a very heavy price, both economically, socially, in terms of non-Covid health outcomes such as impact on mental health. So, if one was to make decisions like that they would have to be done very, very carefully and we’re not there yet, we’re nowhere near that.”

      Fears of ‘very stringent’ action to combat Omicron

      Ministers have been told this week that "very stringent" measures may be needed to combat the Omicron variant.

      Scientists on the advisory panel Sage reportedly warned of a potentially “very large wave” on Monday – after new measures were announced over the weekend.

      Stronger rules on self-isolation for close contacts and travellers and a new mandate on face coverings in England were implemented as of Tuesday, after being revealed at a No10 briefing on Saturday. 

      The new rules fall short of “Plan B” – which includes vaccine passports and working from home guidance. 

      It comes as scientists await to find out if the Omicron variant does spread easier, which they say if turns out to be true, would put more pressure on already-stretched hospitals. 

      A warning to families this Christmas

      People have been warned they should not meet friends and family as much during the Christmas period, a gloomy top doc told Brits.

      Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, warned Brits not to socialise “when we don’t particularly need to” to stem the spread of Omicron.

      However, Care Minister Gillian Keegan urged the public to hold its nerve and resist binning off festive plans.

      Omicron super-strain has sparked a new wave of fear among many as there are now 32 UK cases putting a threat on everyone’s Christmas plans.

      The figure keeps on climbing

      There have been ten new cases of the super-strain Omicron Covid variant found in the UK.

      It takes the UK’s total to 32 with 22 in England alone and 10 in Scotland.

      Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said it is “very likely” more cases of the highly mutated strain will emerge.

      Health bosses are trying to keep a lid on strain by telling contacts of the infected people to self-isolate.

      They are looking to see if there are any links to travel to South Africa – without which suggests the variant is already spreading in the community.

      The Government’s strategy to tackle Omicron is a huge booster campaign to give people maximum immunity this winter.

      • Louis Allwood

        Booster jabs ARE effective against Omicron

        Those who have had their booster vaccine are protected against the new Omicron variant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has claimed.

        The dangers of the new variant are still unknown with scientists currently working around the clock to determine this as data is set to come out in the following days.

        Officials at the WHO today said that there is no evidence to suggest the efficacy of vaccines reduces in people who have caught Omicron.

        The organisation said that most cases of the variant that have been examined so far had not led to severe illness or symptoms.

        Experts in Botswana, where cases were initially also detected said that 80 per cent of cases were asymptomatic.

      • Louis Allwood

        EasyJet announcement

        Those flying with EasyJet will be able to take advantage of the flexible Covid booking rules until the end of March following the extension.

        The Omicron Covid variant has caused great concern and has prompted the budget airline to give passengers more flexibility during a time of travel uncertainty.

        This gives flyers last-minute flexibility if new Covid restrictions are announced.

        There are no restrictions on flight dates or destinations, and customers with both new and existing bookings can transfer to any flights currently on sale up to the end of September 2022.

        So if there are some travel restrictions impacting a customer’s destination country, they can easily change their trip to another country on easyJet’s network.

        The budget airline’s existing travel restriction protection for flights will remain in place until the end of next year.

      • Louis Allwood

        Jabs Army

        This is a comment piece from Boris Johnson

        THANKS to the amazing efforts of the British people and our NHS, we had the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe.

        Today, we have the fastest booster rollout too.

        And be in no doubt, the fantastic volunteers of The Sun’s Jabs Army made an enormous difference in helping the UK achieve this feat.

        Now my message is simple: We need you again. We still don’t know exactly what we’re facing with this Omicron variant.

        But we do know that our single best defence against Omicron — and every other variety of Covid — is getting vaccinated and getting boosted.

        If you’ve had a booster then your immune response will be stronger and you’ll be better protected.

      • Louis Allwood

        Pingdemic – The return

        The latest Covid variant has seen the rise of a new pingdemic which would knock at least £2billion off the economy, a think tank claims.

        The Institute of Economic Affairs believes the measures could end up hammering the economy.

        Spokesman Julian Jessop said: “The main short-term risk to the economy comes from the tightening of the self-isolation rules, which could trigger another pingdemic.

        “This would disrupt schools and businesses in the crucial pre-Christmas period.”

        Labour shortages would amplify the impact compared with the July pingdemic — costing £2billion, he added.

        Read the article in full here.

        Source: Read Full Article