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Omicron variant ‘extremely unlikely’ to set off main new Covid wave in UK, says vaccine professional

A vaccine professional says it’s “extremely unlikely” that the brand new Omicron variant will set off a serious new wave of the Covid pandemic within the UK, regardless of the sudden return of journey restrictions.

Professor Andrew Pollard revealed his “optimism” that present vaccines will proceed to forestall critical illness – and advised Omicron won’t outrun the dominant Delta variant in Europe.

Alarm over Omicron has seen the UK impose flight bans on international locations throughout southern Africa, the place it was found, and warnings that home restrictions could also be must be reimposed.

Prof Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, mentioned it’s “too early” to make certain whether or not the brand new variant will be capable to evade present vaccinations, one thing unlikely to be recognized for 2-3 weeks.

But he mentioned a lot of the mutations in Omicron are in the identical elements of the spike protein as these within the different variants which have emerged.

“That tells you that, despite those mutations existing in other variants, the vaccines have continued to prevent serious disease as we’ve moved through Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta,” he mentioned.

“At least from a speculative point of view we have some optimism that the vaccine should still work against a new variant for serious disease, but really we need to wait several weeks to have that confirmed.

“It’s extremely unlikely that a reboot of a pandemic in a vaccinated population like we saw last year is going to happen.”

Prof Pollard additionally reassured those that the method for creating a brand new vaccine – if wanted – is “increasingly well oiled”.

“That is something that could be moved very rapidly,” he instructed BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He additionally solid doubt on whether or not Omicron would overtake the Delta variant in Europe which, not like South Africa, has a highly-vaccinated inhabitants.

“Delta is already pretty good, it’s spreading like wildfire across Europe,” Prof Pollard mentioned.

But Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Sage advisory group, known as for the return of obligatory mask-wearing in crowded settings now, questioning why it was ever lifted.

“I think we need to prepare, we need to run through our options. And the government needs to be prepared to act fast,” he instructed Times Radio.

“And, unfortunately, the lessons that we’ve learned throughout this epidemic is you have to act harder than you’d like to, wider than you like to, and faster than you’d like to.”

On Friday the well being Secretary Sajid Javid mentioned the federal government’s ‘plan B – mask-wearing, vaccine passports and dealing from house – wouldn’t be launched, however instructed MPs: “If we need to go further, we will.”

He spoke because the UK noticed 50,091 each day Covid instances – the very best degree in a month – and 160 additional deaths and as scientists mentioned it was extremely possible that Omicron will come to the UK.

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