BRITS are fearing more restrictions being brought in by panicked ministers, as Omicron spreads throughout the country.
We are just days away from a long-awaited family Christmas, with people rushing to get their boosters and stay safe from the variant.
But experts are calling for more stringent lockdown type measures, on top of the Plan B restrictions brought in two weeks ago.
Ministers have refused to rule out household mixing bans, social distancing and pub curfews.
It has sparked rumours Brits could be plunged into a circuit breaker lockdown after Christmas or in the run up to it, with more crunch talks taking place today.
Earlier in the month Boris Johnson revealed the four key numbers that he said would determine if England needed more restrictions.
He said: "[We will be] guided by the hard medical data around four – efficacy of vaccines, severity of Omicron, speed or spread and rate of hospitalisations.
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"We will monitor the data and keep it under review and we need to be humble in the face of the virus.
"As soon as it becomes clear boosters are capable of holding Omicron and we have boosted enough then we will be able to move forward as before."
1. EFFICACY OF VACCINES
A booster shot is the best protection against Omicron, with early data suggesting it pushes efficacy back up to 75 per cent.
Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive said: “Once again, we urge everyone who is able to get a booster jab to come forward and do so. It is the best defence we have against this highly transmissible new variant."
The Sun is urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to make the rollout as smooth and fast as possible.
Newer data has since found boosters slash the risk of falling seriously ill from Omicron by up to 86 per cent.
Top scientists tested how blood samples from jabbed individuals fare against the mutant strain.
Three doses still gave high levels of protection from Omicron in terms of needing hospital treatment, but their ability to prevent mild infection fell, experts from Imperial College London found.
Researcher Professor Azra Ghani said: “Our results demonstrate the importance of delivering booster doses. We’re in a good position in the UK because booster doses were rolled out to the highest risk groups a little while ago.
“The more they can get out and the faster they can get out, the better the impact.”
2. SEVERITY OF OMICRON
One person has died from Omicron in the UK so far, with early suggestions indicating the variant is no more severe than Delta for the vaccinated – but more time could reveal a different outcome.
People who catch it may be asymptomatic and not even know or simply show some symptoms and have an unpleasant week with a milder form.
But while the variant should be taken seriously, the working theory at the moment is that for jabbed people with no underlying health conditions, they should generally recover at home.
However gloomy Sage advisers warned of huge spikes in infections, hospital admissions and deaths over the winter due to the variant.
Projections suggested deaths could surge to 2,500 or 4,000 per day in an uncontrolled peak in the new year — compared to a record high of 1,600 in January 2021.
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But commenting on the latest booster study, the University of Oxford’s Professor James Naismith said: “We can be confident that double and especially triple-vaccinated people have protection against serious disease.
"As a result, the number of hospitalisations per 1,000 infections of Omicron will be significantly lower than the first wave."
In Hong Kong researchers found Omicron "replicates faster than the original Sars-CoV-2 virus and Delta variant in the human bronchus".
They said that 24 hours after infection, the Omicron variant "replicated around 70 times higher than the Delta variant and the original Sars-CoV-2 virus".
"In contrast, the Omicron variant replicated less efficiently (more than 10 times lower) in the human lung tissue than the original Sars-CoV-2 virus, which may suggest lower severity of disease."
3. SPEED OF SPREAD
Cases of Omicron in the UK are currently doubling every two to three days, the top medical officers and scientists say.
Public health chiefs are able to track Omicron cases in the testing system by looking for an indicator called SGTF or “S-gene dropout” that is not seen in Delta.
New research found the Omicron Covid variant multiplies 70 times faster than Delta in human airways but 10 time slower in the lungs.
Scientists at the University of Hong Kong say the findings could indicate the disease is more transmissible but less severe, as it pushed daily infections in the UK to a record high.
England’s top doctor warned on Friday that "everybody can see this is moving very fast", but that the peak could come down quicker than previous waves.
Professor Chris Whitty said Omicron is “highly transmissible and the rates are going to continue to go up”.
He told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee: “I think what we will see with this – and I think we are seeing it in South Africa – is that the upswing will be incredibly fast, even if people are taking more cautious actions, as they are."
In just over three weeks cases have risen to more than 37,000 of the mutant variant – with Brits encouraged to get their boosters and behave sensibly to stop the spread.
4. RATE OF HOSPITALISATIONS
As of December 13, 900 patients a day were admitted to hospital with Covid.
Sage warned earlier this month it is possible hospital admissions from the new variant in England could exceed 1,000 per day – and still be increasing – by the end of the year.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said this morning 104 people are on wards battling Omicron.
From the latest data 875 of the Covid patients are on ventilators, and more than 7,000 are still in hospital with the killer bug.
In the January peak, when Alpha hit the country, the hospitalisations were far greater at a record high of almost 2,000.
But it can take weeks for a case rise to translate into a hospital admission rise, so the picture on Omicron's effect on this is still unclear.
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