The surge of Covid-19 cases in the UK is the “tip of the iceberg” as more than 40pc of the daily cases are Omicron, according to an Irish epidemiologist.
r Susan Hopkins is the chief medical officer for the UK health security agency.
She said the UK detected more than 10,000 cases of Omicron today through genome sequencing.
“We have gone from having no cases detected three weeks ago to today detecting more than 10,000 confirmed by genome sequencing and almost 40,000 by the PCR tests that can detect it.
“That’s only the tip of the iceberg of course and we now know that in London more than 70pc of the cases of Covid on a daily basis are Omicron and across the country it’s over 40pc,” she said.
It comes as the UK reported a record high in Covid-19 cases for the second day running on Thursday with 88,376 new cases.
Dr Hopkins said the current reports that the Omicron variant presents a mild illness may be due to the fact that South Africa has a very young population with an average age of 27.
“I think the stories of mild illness are coming from South Africa at the moment and they’ve got a very young population, much younger than our populations in the UK and Ireland where our average age is over 40 and theirs is only 27.
“We know that this is a mild illness in young people but I’m afraid once you’re over 50 you can have severe consequences.
“Vaccination will clearly help but what we have seen very clearly in the data that we’ve produced is that the waning of vaccination is present so that means that it’s less effective overtime and also, we have a small population still unvaccinated who we really want to come forward to get vaccinated. We’ve just hit over 44pc boosted but I think everyone will need a booster vaccine to get through this wave,” she said.
Dr Hopkins said it is important to use antigen tests in order to detect the illness in those who are asymptomatic.
“I think firstly one of the big things that we’re doing is testing more frequently and I know that you’re using lateral flows more frequently in Ireland as well. I think that’s a really important measure because you can detect people who are asymptomatic and many people especially younger people who are vaccinated will be asymptomatic but they can still pass it on to their loved ones.
“So, we’re recommending a very widespread use of lateral flows before you go and visit people and before you go out. We’re also asking people to have much less contacts than they’ve been having.
“I think it’s now really important in the run up to Christmas to really restrict the number of people to the absolute minimum. Our mantra is vaccinate, test, use your face covering and reduce your number of contacts as much as possible,” she said.
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