Omicron likely biggest threat of Covid pandemic so far: UK health chief

After UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the nation will see a ‘tidal wave’ of Omicron variant, the country’s health chief said the new strain poses the biggest threat of Covid pandemic so far.

According to Jenny Harries, the CEO of the UK Health Security Agency, the heavily mutated Omicron variant of Covid is “probably the most significant threat” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the CNBC reported.

“I’m sure for example the numbers that we see on data over the next few days will be quite staggering compared to the rate of growth that we’ve seen in cases for previous variants,” she was quoted as saying to a committee of British lawmakers on Wednesday.

“The real potential risk here – and I would underline that because we are still learning a lot about the variant – is in relation to its severity, clinical severity, and therefore whether those cases turn into severe disease, hospitalisations and deaths. We’re still at too early stage for that. In fact, the world probably is still at too early a stage to be clear,” she added.

Her comments came just before the UK reported a record number of new daily Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, with 78,610 in the last 24 hours, the report said.

The figure was an increase from 59,610 the day before, and it surpasses the previous high of 68,053 cases reported on January 8. The country has also reported its first death due to Omicron.

Declaring an “Omicron emergency”, Johnson also set a new booster target — the third doses will be offered to everyone over 18 in England by December end from January end earlier, three months after their second dose. This spurred long queues outside vaccination centres in many UK cities and towns.

While initial reports suggest that the Omicron variant might not be any more severe than other Covid strains, health experts have repeatedly warned that the sheer number of infections could lead to mounting fatalities and an overwhelmed health-care system.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen. But at the moment the indications are it could be as big or even bigger than the previous wave this time last year. So we’re preparing for that,” Harries said.




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