Omicron ‘yet to peak in London’ top expert warns – as infections surge to new record

Omicron ‘yet to peak in London’ top expert warns – as infections surge to new record

It would be “very wrong” to think Omicron has reached its peak in London, the UK’s chief scientist has warned.

The Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance, urged caution as he warned of “extraordinarily high levels” of infection while briefing reporters at Downing Street today.

It comes as daily lab-confirmed Covid cases in England and Scotland tipped over the 200,000 mark for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Vallance said: “It would be very wrong … to suggest that there’s a peak which means it’s all over in London.

“It may well be flattening in some of the younger age groups, but it’s in the older age groups where we have the biggest risk of this turning into hospitalisation, and severe complications.”

Vallance said Omicron’s strain on the NHS will largely depend on how it impacts the older generation.

He added: “What we don’t know, and these are two things we don’t know that are key, exactly when the peak is going to occur or how big the peak is going to be.

Daily lab-confirmed Covid cases in England and Scotland have breached the 200,000 mark for the first time
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“That is one thing that is going to determine how much disease comes on in terms of hospitalisation. And the second really important thing is that this has largely been an infection among younger people up until now, and it is moving up the age range now.

“And as it moves up the age range, you would expect to see more hospitalisations and we don’t know for sure how that’s going to manifest and what degree of disease.

“So I think with the degree of infection that we have got, we are going to see more hospitalisation for sure – 15,000 per day at the moment. That I expect to increase, and that of course will be associated with increased pressure and ultimately with some fatalities as well.

“I think what we now need to look for is when this peaks and starts to come down.”

Vallance said Omicron’s effect on the older population will determine how much it impacts the NHS
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It comes as daily-lab confirmed Covid cases in England and Scotland tipped over 200,000 for the first time.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that “utmost caution” is needed as infections continue to soar.

He added there is a “good chance” he would not have to impose fresh restrictions to tackle the massive wave of Omicron cases.

The PM backed sticking with Plan B measures despite warnings the NHS is under significant pressure from coronavirus.

The Prime Minister confirmed he would advocate to his Cabinet the need to stick with work-from-home guidance, mask-wearing and Covid health passes to “ride out” the wave of infections.

Sir Patrick Vallance warned of “extraordinarily” high infections today
POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The PM warned anyone who believes the battle against the disease is over is “profoundly wrong”.

Mr Johnson argued the booster rollout has provided the nation substantial protection.

“So together with the Plan B measures that we introduced before Christmas we have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again,” he told a Downing Street press conference on the eve of the review date for the restrictions announced four weeks ago.

“We can keep our schools and our businesses open and we can find a way to live with this virus.”

Boris Johnson has backed sticking with Plan B measures
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Professor Sir Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said hospitals across the country were likely to face “very substantial pressure over the next couple of weeks”.

“I don’t think we think that the ICU pressure is going to be like it was in previous waves but there is very substantial pressure on the emergency service part – ambulances, A&Es,” he told a Downing Street press conference.

“My colleagues in the NHS who are on the emergency side are having an extremely difficult time because they have a simultaneous wave of people coming in with Covid on top of the usual winter pressures, and you’ve got a wave of people who are off sick because they have got Covid or indeed for other reasons, but Covid is very substantially contributing to that.

“As Patrick (Vallance) said, we would expect the peak in younger people to come before the peak in older people so it may well be that the workforce problems start to decrease before we start to see any decrease in the number of people coming into hospital. Indeed, they could still very well be going up for some time.”

Mr Johnson said the rollout of booster vaccines has helped provide the nation with significant protection from the virus
POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Sir Chris said that there was not likely to be a “single threshold” for when further action might be needed to be taken by the NHS but more “little by little” that things are rolled back, firstly in terms of routine procedures and then to more urgent but not emergency services.

“It will be patchy in different areas of the country, it will be patchy at different points along the epidemic and it won’t reach a threshold but there will certainly be some hospitals in some areas of the country which will come under very substantial pressure over the next couple of weeks,” he added.

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