The world faces an omicron Christmas but isn’t doing much about it yet

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The festive play volition beryllium dominated by a ample question of covid-19 infections caused by the omicron variant, but fewer countries look to person substantially changed their plans

Health 13 December 2021

By Michael Le Page

A store  model   successful  Tehran, Iran

A store model successful Tehran, Iran

Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There present seems small uncertainty that the Christmas play volition coincide with different large question of coronavirus cases astir the world, arsenic it becomes wide that the omicron variant tin mostly evade anterior immunity from corruption oregon 2 vaccine doses, and mightiness beryllium adjacent much transmissible than the delta variant. In England and Scotland, cases person been doubling each 2 days. The large chartless remains whether determination volition beryllium arsenic galore hospitalisations and deaths arsenic successful erstwhile waves.

In South Africa, the state that archetypal detected omicron, the variant has dispersed acold faster than earlier variants, with cases doubling each 3 to 4 days.

As New Scientist went to press, determination was disorder – owed to IT issues – astir whether lawsuit numbers successful South Africa were now slowing oregon inactive accelerating. But successful Gauteng province, nearly as many cases person already been reported arsenic during the country’s delta question earlier this year.

Initial reports suggest determination person been less hospitalisations and deaths successful South Africa than during erstwhile waves, but it is excessively aboriginal to beryllium sure. Furthermore, it is estimated that astir everyone in the state had already been infected oregon vaccinated earlier omicron began to spread, truthful anterior immunity – though usually insufficient to forestall infection – would beryllium expected to greatly trim the hazard of terrible disease.

Outside South Africa, the UK and Denmark person truthful acold reported the astir confirmed cases of omicron, prompting Israel to program to ban question to these nations connected apical of different question restrictions it has already imposed.

Yet the precocious lawsuit numbers whitethorn mostly bespeak the information that the 2 countries bash acold much sequencing than astir others. Sequencing the viral genome remains the only way to corroborate which variant has infected someone, though PCR tests tin sometimes springiness an denotation too. The UK would beryllium expected to person much omicron cases than different nations due to the fact that of its beardown question links to South Africa, but determination is nary crushed to deliberation Denmark is exceptional.

“Omicron is already everywhere,” Hans Kluge astatine the World Health Organization said connected 7 December. The galore question bans imposed due to the fact that of the variant – mostly connected confederate African countries – wouldn’t enactment for this reason, helium said.

So far, it appears lone a fewer countries person introduced measures to forestall omicron’s dispersed wrong their borders, though some, including Germany and Belgium, already had restrictions successful spot to tackle precocious numbers of delta cases.

Home moving for those who can has been reintroduced crossed the UK, but erstwhile New Scientist went to press, ample events would astir apt inactive spell up successful England for those with vaccine passports. This is contempt UK information suggesting that being treble vaccinated offers small extortion from symptomatic corruption with omicron.

Denmark has imposed akin measures, limiting opening hours for bars but not closing them altogether.

While astir different nations person yet to enforce caller restrictions owed to omicron, immoderate are stepping up efforts to springiness booster shots to people who person already had two vaccine doses. On 12 December, Anthony Fauci, the chief aesculapian advisor to the US president, urged those already vaccinated to get a booster shot, citing grounds suggesting it greatly increases extortion against omicron.

The aforesaid day, UK premier curate Boris Johnson announced a wide booster campaign, saying “Do not make the mistake of reasoning omicron can’t wounded you, can’t make you and your loved ones earnestly ill.”

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