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‘Serious threat’ to UK remains despite promising Omicron data, says Jenny Harries

‘Serious threat’ to UK remains despite promising Omicron data, says Jenny Harries
‘There’s a glimmer of Christmas hope in the findings we published yesterday,’ health security chief says

Omicron still poses a “serious threat” to the 英国 despite a “glimmer of hope” in research showing people contracting the virus are less likely to need hospital care, 博士 Jenny Harries 说.

The remarks from the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) follows her stark warning last week that the variant was “probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic”.

findings published on Thursday, the UKHSA estimated that someone with Omicron is between 31 和 45 per cent less likely to attend A&E and 50 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital than an individual with the Delta variant.

然而, due to the sheer number of infections — yesterday the official data showed almost 120,000 new positive cases — it was warned a signifiant number of people could still become seriously ill and needing hospital treatment.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the research on hospitalisations was enough to downgrade her warning to MPs last week, she replied: “There’s a glimmer of Christmas hope in the findings we published yesterday, but it definitely isn’t yet at the point where we could downgrade that serious threat.”

Emphasising the preliminary findings published by the UKHSA involved “very small numbers”, Dr Harries said: “Critically what we’re seeing is Omicron largely in younger people — it’s only just now that the cases are starting to tip into the older population, particularly the 60 and 70-year-olds.

“There are a number of different reasons why we need to continue to look at this data further.”

She later added: “I don’t think we do know yet this is going to be a significantly less serious disease for the population, the older population that we are normally most concerned about in relation to serious disease and death”.

鲍里斯·约翰逊 yet to decide whether further 冠状病毒病 restrictions will be needed after Christmas in England, Dr Harries also suggested that minsters might consider the wider impact of the Omicron wave — rather than just the severity of the illness.

Asked whether the government will have the information needed on Monday to make key decisions, she told the 英国广播公司 that ministers were being kept abreast of the latest data on a daily basis and that will continue throughout the Christmas period.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Thursday government ‘cannot risk the NHS being overwhelmed”.

“Ministers will look at all of the data we have available,“ 她说. “And that isn’t simply what the epidemiology is saying, it’s how it’s impacting society.

“So for example, we have very high rates of individuals off sick, we know that particularly in London around 1 在 35 have currently got Omicron. Now that’s having an impact on the workforce. So these are not simply about hospitalisation rates.”

According to reports on Thursday evening, the prospect of new restrictions being introduced by New Year’s Eve are increasingly unlikely after research on the Omicron variant from the UKHSA and other bodies.

One government source told The Daily Telegraph it was a “working assumption” in Whitehall that Mr Johnson would stop short of new legal curbs on socialising immediately after Christmas and could instead opt for advice to the public.

They added the prime minister would also be constrained by a short window next week to recall Parliament — something Mr Johnson has vowed to do if the government decides further restrictions are needed to curb the spread of Covid after demands from rebellious Tory MPs.

然而, speaking on Thursday, 萨吉德·贾维德, the health secretary, suggested the data but warned cases were spreading at an “extraordinary rate” and that “hospital admissions are increasing, and we cannot risk the NHS being overwhelmed”.

Asked when there would be clarity for people’s New Year plans, Mr Javid said: “We do have clarity: the government has taken action already, so-called plan-B, people behaving sensibly and much more cautiously since they’ve learned about this variant.

“And as I said, we’re getting more data all the time, we’re clear that there’s no need for any kind of further restrictions of any type of before Christmas, but of course, we will keep the situation under review.”

他加了: “We’re not planning any further announcements this week. Despite the caution that we’re all taking, the sensible caution, people should enjoy their Christmases with their families and friends, 当然, remain cautious and we will keep the situation under review.

“We’re learning more all the time as we have done from this new data and we will keep analysing that data. And if we need to do anything more, we will – but nothing more is going to happen before Christmas.”