Hawkish ministers requested “incontrovertible evidence” that Omicron threatens the NHS to justify the cost of taking action during a long and tense cabinet meeting on Monday, while Boris Johnson reiterated on Tuesday that there is insufficient evidence to support further measures – yet.
According to the Guardian While some clarification on the new variant’s hospitalization rate should be available within a day or two, scientists have warned that gathering the evidence ministers require could be “a difficult order.” So, why is it so difficult to exercise, and what does this signify for making decisions?
The exponential rise in omicron cases
Cases of Omicron are doubling every 48 hours, implying that the number of people who may get severe sickness is likewise increasing exponentially. However, it takes around 10 days for this rise to show up in hospital statistics after testing positive for Covid.
The overall number of confirmed Omicron cases in the UK was 1,898 ten days ago. The total number of cases was 45,145 as of December 19th, while the true figure is likely to be much higher because many infected people are not being tested and suspected Omicron cases are taking longer to confirm. Hospitals in London are reporting an increase in Covid admissions, but ten days from now, regardless of Omicron’s severity, the figure is expected to have exploded due to the sheer quantity of infections.
Is NHS ready for the new Covid wave?
Many scientists are skeptical of assertions that Omicron causes milder sickness. More likely, many of those who have been vaccinated will have less severe disease, implying that fewer of them will be admitted to the hospital. Yet predicting precisely how much impact immunizations – and especially boosters – will have is fraught with difficulty.
Modeling studies are useful, but they tend to forecast a wide range of outcomes.
“You go from something that isn’t as awful as last winter to something that is far worse.” “From a policymaking standpoint, that’s not very useful because they don’t attribute any likelihood to any of those situations,” Dr. Raghib Ali, a senior clinical research associate at the University of Cambridge MRC Epidemiology Unit, explained.
Prof Sheila Bird, previously of the Medical Research Council’s biostatistics unit at the University of Cambridge, remarked, “I think unassailable evidence is a huge ask.”
“I imagine [ministers] are attempting to figure out what influence booster immunisations have on Omicron versus Delta hospitalization rates.” But it depends on how many patients were boosted roughly four weeks ago, had two weeks to establish full protection from that booster, got Omicron versus Delta during that period, and were subsequently hospitalized.”
Part of the problem is that things are continuously changing: the rate at which people have been taking boosters has altered, while worry over Omicron’s spread has driven some people to behave more cautiously or to seek PCR tests in increasing numbers.
Others have said that the threat to the NHS and other sectors of society stems from the extremely high number of infections rather than the severity of the disease. “Impact is driven by transmission rather than severity,” said Jeremy Farrer, director of the Wellcome Trust and a former member of Sage, on the Today show. He described the country’s current situation as “the most challenging, most unclear” in the pandemic’s history.
Are covid limits coming back on Christmas Eve?
In reaction to the Omicron variety, the laws on face masks, working from home, and self-isolation have been strengthened across the UK.
In England, the government has implemented Plan B, which requires facial coverings in most indoor areas and NHS COVID passes for late-night venues and large-scale events.
However, scientists have called the threat of the new, more contagious form as the “ultimate lose-lose dilemma,” with some predicting that further “stringent” restrictions may be required in the coming weeks.
How are the rules changing in England when it comes to face masks and COVID passes?
Ministers are also reportedly considering a ‘Plan B Plus,’ which may be implemented in January, according to reports.
COVID limits in the UK will be kept “under review” after Michael Gove, the minister for intergovernmental relations, was provided with “some extremely problematic new material” regarding Omicron.
If current trends continue, the UK will have more than one million Omicron cases by the end of this month, according to the UK Health Security Agency.
Sky News investigates what a COVID ‘Plan C’ would include, as well as if Plan B measures will be sufficient to stop the spread of Omicron.
What other limitations could be imposed?
Parts of the United Kingdom have already enacted stronger policies than those outlined in Plan B for England.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, declared on December 10 that the 10-day isolation period for all contacts of a positive coronavirus case would be reinstated.
In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, people are only required to isolate if they have been in close contact with someone who has been infected with Omicron.
care homes need to be strengthened
The Department of Health announced on December 10 that care facilities should only allow three visitors and one essential care giver per person. Care staff will be required to take three lateral flow sessions every week, rather than the present two.
Without a fourth lockdown, the government may take a number of additional steps to slow the spread of Omicron in England.
Dr. Peter English, a former Public Health England specialist in communicable disease control, told Sky News, “It’s fantastic they’ve brought in additional things, but there’s much more that they should have previously been doing.”
Facemasks might be made required again in hospitality places such as restaurants, cafes, pubs, and bars, except while seated, and table-only service could be reinstated.
According to the Daily Mail, the NHS COVID app might be resurrected in the hospitality industry in the New Year, requiring individuals to ‘check in’ at venues, as they did previously.
Passports for vaccines
Nightclubs, other late-night venues, indoor events with more than 500 people, outdoor events with more than 4,000 people, and any event with more than 10,000 people will require NHS COVID passes beginning December 15th.
They demonstrate that a person has been fully vaccinated or has had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.
The government might go even farther and require confirmation of vaccination, but this is fraught with controversy, with politicians and scientists saying that it would jeopardize public faith.
Unvaccinated persons are effectively barred from broad swaths of society in countries like Austria, which require evidence of vaccination for entrance to restaurants and other non-essential services.
Germany is also considering the adoption of vaccine passports, with a decision expected in the new year.
Dr. English argues that a “significant lot” might be done to prevent the virus from spreading in schools.
“Since the summer, cases have been predominantly driven by school children,” he said.
“Air filtration systems have been installed in every classroom in other countries. That was a promise made by our government, but it was not kept.” He added, have the laws on facemasks in schools “totally backwards,” and children should be needed in classrooms, not simply communal areas.
“In an enclosed space like a classroom, you’re much more likely to spread the virus than in a corridor where you’re merely passing individuals,” he added.
Children are expected to continue attending school if someone in their household tests positive, thanks to the relaxation of self-isolation guidelines earlier this year.
Dr. English stated, “Parents should be permitted to take their children out of school for COVID reasons if they feel they need to.”
Is it possible that Christmas will be postponed once more?
The government imposed a’stay at home’ order for London and parts of the South East on December 21, with further regions added on Boxing Day, after guaranteeing three homes could mix between November 23 and December 27, 2020.