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Some scientists believe that the new variant, first identified in South Africa, could be as much as three times more transmissible than the Delta variant, and as many as 1,000 people in the UK per day could currently be becoming infected.
Plan B, as it was termed when the government set out their winter plans for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic some time ago, could see workers told to work from home wherever possible, as well as the introduction of vaccine passports to enter venues such as football grounds and music venues.
It is too early to say that the Omicron variant is more transmissible or could lead to greater levels of illness, but Mr Johnson is reported to have told a Cabinet meeting yesterday that ‘early indications are that it is more transmissible than Delta’.
There are currently 437 confirmed cases of the variant in the UK.
Based on UK Health Security Data, Professor Alastair Grant from the University of East Anglia told The Sun that one in every 50 cases reported at the moment could be the Omicron variant.
He said: “Numbers of Covid cases likely to be the Omicron variant are increasing rapidly in England.
“This gives a worst-case scenario of 2,500 cases so far.
“It is more effective at infecting people through a balance of escaping immunity and some increase in transmissibility.
“The biggest concern in the short term is pressure on hospitals because at the beginning of January those hospitals will already be having a hard time.”
Whilst the rate of hospitalisations has fallen in recent weeks, the number of cases has risen, and last week the highest number of weekly cases since January was reported.
Even if the new variant is proven to be milder, the increased infection rate will likely carry through to more admissions to hospital and an increase in deaths.
However, senior government ministers have pushed back against the suggestion that new restrictions are being considered, with Dominic Raab stating: “We don’t think Plan B is required because of the success of the vaccine.”
The Prime Minister is also currently facing his own scandal after footage emerged that seemed to suggest that a Christmas party was held last year at Downing Street in defiance of the government’s own coronavirus restrictions.