Britons are rushing to enjoy the last weekend before Christmas despite pleas from scientists for caution amid a growing wave of Covid.
A major incident has been announced in London amid ‘great concern’ over the spread of the Omicron coronavirus across the capital, but revelers across the country still head out with friends to enjoy drinks in bars and clubs.
Experts have warned that restrictions “similar in scope to the national lockdown” are needed to prevent hospitalizations with coronavirus below the previous peak.
But Brits in fancy dress, Christmas sweaters or their usual weekend clothes ignored the warnings and were photographed enjoying their freedom while still being able to.
Amid large numbers of cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, documents released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on Saturday revealed the grim picture that advisers painted throughout December as the threat from the strain increased.
Advice included that internal confusion is the ‘biggest risk factor’ for the spread of the coronavirus variant, and that large gatherings risk creating ‘multi-spread events’.
While the modeling Scientific Pandemic Influenza group, Operational Subgroup (SPI-MO), said in documents released on Saturday but dated December 8, in nearly all of the modeling ‘a significant reduction in transmission (similar in scale to the national lockdown implemented in January’) January 2021 and a pandemic “in July 2021” are required to keep hospitalizations below the previous peak.
The advice from 10 days ago adds: “Early intervention also reduces the wave of treatment in the hospital.”
Newcastle: Revelers enjoy a night out on the last Saturday evening before Christmas, with festive jackets and fancy dress
Leeds: Revelers make the most of last Saturday night before Christmas amid warnings of an omicron surge
Leeds: A group of revelers, dressed in Christmas jackets, were photographed enjoying the last weekend before Christmas
Revelers dressed in matching gold and black take advantage of the Saturday night in Leeds before Christmas
Leeds: Britons in fancy dress, Christmas sweaters or their usual weekend outfit ignored warnings and were photographed enjoying their freedom while they could
Newcastle: Revelers enjoy a night out on the last Saturday evening before Christmas amid warnings of more restrictions
A major incident has been announced in London amid ‘great concern’ over the spread of the Omicron coronavirus across the capital, but revelers across the country still head out with friends to enjoy drinks in pubs and clubs (Pictured: Newcastle)
Amid high numbers of cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, documents released by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) on Saturday revealed the grim picture that advisers painted throughout December as the threat from the strain increased (Pictured: Newcastle)
Minutes from Thursday’s Sage meeting said stricter measures may be needed including “reducing group sizes, increasing physical distancing, reducing the duration of contacts and closing high-risk buildings”.
Experts have warned that even if transmission rates are reduced, hospital admissions levels are likely to be between 1,000 and 2,000 per day in England by the end of the year.
Modeling showed that if ministers stuck to current Plan B measures, there would be a peak of 3,000 per day.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said this comes as the number of deaths in England for people with the Omicron variant rose to seven, from the previous figure of one.
The number of hospital admissions in England of people confirmed or suspected of Omicron has risen to 85, from 65.
The UK Health Services Authority (UKHSA) said there were an additional 10,059 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 reported across the UK.
This brings the total confirmed cases of the variant in the UK to 24,968.
“Some scenarios have much worse outcomes during the first few months of 2022 but there are many uncertainties,” the documents said.
And ramping up the augmented program wouldn’t help, because many of those accepted would be infected by now.
They cautioned that delaying implementation of more stringent measures until 2022 would “drastically reduce the effectiveness of such interventions and reduce the potential to prevent such significant pressures on health and care settings”.
The number of confirmed cases for Omicron in England is up 69 per cent from the previous day’s total – an increase of 9,427 to 23,168, figures from UKHSA show today.
Official data showed that hospital admissions due to the Covid virus rose by more than a third in a week in the British hotspot Omicron in London.
It comes after reports that officials have made plans to shut down the circuit breaker for two weeks after Christmas.
The Liberal Democrats called for Parliament to be summoned on Monday to discuss next steps.
Is it really safe to cut out a 10-day quarantine?
What is the duration of transmission of infection to people?
Some academics have argued that Britain’s self-isolation penalty against Covid could be halved to just five days.
Data show that nearly 98 percent of transmission of the virus occurs either before people become sick, or within five days of symptoms starting.
‘Because most transmission occurs very early, the isolation period may be much shorter for cases,’ Dr Mog Civic, an infectious disease expert from the University of St Andrews, said earlier this year.
The viral load peaks very quickly, so people are highly contagious for the first few days.
How long can Covid patients test positive?
Lateral flow tests, which provide results in less than 15 minutes, work best for detecting the most infected people.
They look for viral proteins called antigens in samples taken from the nose and throat.
But the kits are less sensitive than gold-standard PCRs, which see swabs sent to laboratories to be analyzed for viral genetic material.
This means that they are less likely to detect a person when they are infected, but also less likely to give a positive result when the person has passed the peak of infection and has a lower viral load.
On the other hand, PCR is very sensitive and can pick up the presence of viral fragments long after the disease has gone away.
For this reason, a positive PCR result does not always mean that a person is still contagious.
Party leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘Throughout the pandemic, Boris Johnson has consistently reacted too late, missed opportunities and refused to act when asked by scientists.
This is why the Liberal Democrats are asking the government to recall a virtual parliament on Monday at this time of national crisis.
We cannot allow the Prime Minister to sit on his hands while the NHS and businesses are on the verge of collapse.
Ministers must explain the latest scientific advice to MPs and ensure proper discussion of future Covid measures, including support for businesses during this increasingly challenging period.
Earlier, Stephen Reacher, a professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews and a Sage member, said it was clear that Plan B measures alone would not be enough to stop the rising numbers of cases.
Speaking to Radio Times in his personal capacity, Professor Reicher said the time for action was now.
Professor Reacher said: “The only way we really, or at least the most effective way, we can have an immediate impact is to reduce the number of contacts we have.
In many ways, the most effective way to reduce contact is to have a circuit breaker.
“Now, you can have it after Christmas, the problem is that after Christmas it may be too late, maybe by then we will have a massive wave of infections with all the impact on society.
When people say “Look, we don’t want to close,” of course, we don’t want to close.
But the problem is right now, things are shutting down anyway, due to the spread of infection.
“So I think we need to act now.”
A government spokesperson said: “The government will continue to look closely at all emerging data and will keep our measures under review as we learn more about this alternative.”
Cabinet ministers received a briefing on Saturday on the latest developments regarding the Omicron formula.
There was no cabinet meeting or further discussion, but ministers were given an update on the data surrounding the variant.
The Cobra meeting will be held over the weekend with the delegated countries.
The government said a further 90,418 laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 had been recorded in the UK as of 9am on Saturday.
Another 125 people died within 28 days of testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that 172,000 deaths have been recorded in the UK where Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said the Omicron variant had been identified in 89 countries as of Thursday and had a doubling time of 1.5-3 days.
She said data is still limited on the severity of stress, but added: “Given the rapidly increasing number of cases, it is likely that many health care systems will quickly become overwhelmed.”