“Dazzling”, “phenomenal” Where “Astounding” : the scientific advisers of the British government do not have enough strong words to describe the Omicron wave which falls on the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself called it ” tsunami “. “This variant is the greatest threat we have faced since the start of the pandemic”, Jenny Harries, the director general of the British Health Security Agency, warned Wednesday (December 15th) before a parliamentary committee in Westminster. For this doctor, a specialist in public health, the progression of this variant of SarS-CoV-2 identified for the first time in South Africa is “Amazing, never seen before”.
In order to limit this spread in France, the government spokesman, Gabriel Attal, announced Thursday a tightening of the conditions of access to France from the United Kingdom, travel being “Limited to French resident nationals and their families”, and the duration of validity of the tests shortened.
The numbers give the spin. As of Wednesday, 78,610 new infections have been recorded over the past 24 hours, a record since the start of the epidemic in the United Kingdom. In London, which is again the epicenter, almost 20,000 cases were recorded during this period, and Omicron took precedence over the Delta variant. According to the models of the Health Security Agency, Omicron infections gallop at the rate of 200,000 infected people per day at the start of the week, reaching between 300,000 and 400,000 cases per day in the middle of the week. At this rate, 4 million Britons will have been infected by Omicron before Christmas. “Omicron cases now double every 1.9 days”, said Mme Harries, and that growth is exponential across the country. “We are going to break a lot of records by Christmas”, Chris Whitty, chief medical adviser to the British government, noted Wednesday at a press conference called urgently by Boris Johnson.
The hospital in difficulty
Should we panic? Is Omicron as virulent as Delta, or does it in most cases only cause moderate forms of the disease, as feedback from South Africa has suggested in recent days? It is too early to say, warned Mr. Whitty, knowing that it takes between ten and fifteen days for the contaminations to translate into hospitalizations then in death (165 deaths were recorded over twenty-four hours Wednesday, and 774 people were admitted to hospital on December 11, according to the most recent official data). But Mr Whitty, who has established himself as one of the country’s most respected experts, warned of a “Overinterpretation” South African data. In South Africa, “The level of immunity [acquis par la population] as a result of a more recent Delta variant wave and a less vaccinated population, is much higher than the immunity gained in the previous wave [ayant touché le pays], lower hospitalization rate [que lors de la précédente vague] is therefore not a surprise ”, he explained. And to conclude that it is “Always possible that Omicron is less virulent, but people should not think that there is nothing to fear”.
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In the UK, Omicron’s progress is “staggering, never seen before”