40% of New Covid-19 Cases in London Likely the Omicron Variant: Report

40% of New Covid-19 Cases in London Likely the Omicron Variant: Report
Skaters on the ice rink at the Natural History Museum in central London on December 9, 2021. (Photo: Hollie Adams / AFP, Getty Images)

Roughly 40% of new covid-19 cases in London consist of the recently discovered omicron variant, according to UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who made the starling claim on Monday. The news comes as the British public is urged to get coronavirus booster vaccines to help shore up protection against a disease that has killed at least 5.31 million people around the world.

“Please play your part. This could not be more important,” Javid told Sky News on Monday morning. “We need to win this race against the growth of this virus — they say we’ve never seen this kind of growth before.”

“Come forward, protect yourselves, your loved ones, and your community,” Javid said, urging people to get their boosters.

While there are some encouraging signs that omicron could be less lethal than the delta strain, there are also early signs that it could be more transmissible. Vaccine efficacy has also been a concern for those studying the omicron variant, which has led public health experts to encourage booster doses, especially in colder climates where the disease has surged in recent weeks, including the U.S., Russia, and northern Europe.

The UK reported 48,071 new covid-19 cases on Sunday and 52 deaths. And while cases have climbed significantly, the death rate isn’t anywhere near the last large wave in January and February when about 1,300 people in the UK were dying every day.

The U.S. hasn’t been quite so lucky, largely owing to a smaller percentage of the population being vaccinated. Roughly 69.5% of people in the UK are vaccinated against covid-19, while only 60.7% are vaccinated in the U.S. The U.S. is currently averaging about 119,000 new cases per day and about 1,280 deaths.

The UK has given more than 20 million booster doses thus far, according to the latest figures from the BBC. But with a population of over 67 million, the UK will likely have to get more boosters into arms if it wants to keep omicron at bay. In fact, a new study suggests there will likely be a disturbing new wave of covid-19 fuelled by omicron in January throughout the UK.

From the BBC:

In the most optimistic scenario, which assumes Omicron has low immune escape and booster jabs are highly effective, the model projects between 1 December and 30 April in England there will be:

  • 20.9 million infections

  • 175,000 hospital admissions

  • 24,700 deaths

In the most pessimistic scenario, which assumes Omicron has high immune escape and booster jabs are less effective, the model projects between 1 December and 30 April in England there will be:

  • 34.2 million infections

  • 492,000 hospital admissions

  • 74,900 deaths

And while no one knows for sure what omicron holds, it’s likely going to be another harsh winter for Britons just trying to get on with their lives and tired of a pandemic that never seems to end.