I think it is wiser to be cautious now in order to make certain of an unrestricted Christmas with family and friends later on this month. I also know scientists are learning more every day but Omicron’s severity, its exact rate of transmission and its impact on vaccines is not yet fully known. It is however increasingly clear that Omicron is growing much faster than Delta. Evidence suggests that the doubling time of Omicron in the UK could be currently between two and three days, compared to seven days for Delta.
I must emphasise that there is one thing we already know for sure: right now, our single best defence against Omicron vaccination. Early research from Pfizer suggests that a third dose of their vaccine neutralised the Omicron variant to levels similar to the impact of two doses against the original strain of coronavirus.
Given the need to gather more information, it is right that the Government implemented targeted measures as a precaution, including travel restrictions and testing, and the reintroduction of compulsory face coverings.
While the situation with this variant may still get better, we know from experience that exponential growth could lead to a large rise in hospitalisations, and therefore sadly in deaths. It is important to note that hospitalisations have doubled in South Africa as result of Omicron. That is why it is now the proportionate and responsible thing to move to Plan B in England and I support the Government’s decision to do so.
As such, the guidance to work from home will be reintroduced, the legal requirement to wear a face covering will be extended to most public indoor venues and NHS COVID Pass will be mandatory for entry into nightclubs, and venues where large crowds gather.
This is a clear reminder to us all that the pandemic is not over, and we all have a responsibility to do what we can to limit transmission and reduce the infection rate and prevent the emergence of new variants. This means coming forward for vaccination as soon as possible and following public health advice.