How likely is the Omicron Covid variant to take hold in the UK? | Corona Virus

Omicron is causing panic around the world, as it is found that the alternative behind exponential height In cases of Covid in South Africa. However, with only 42 cases confirmed in the UK so far, and most European countries seeing double rather than triple numbers, could this be an initial sign that the alternative might fail to take hold outside of South Africa? Bottom line, it’s too early to say.

One problem is that there are important differences that make it difficult to compare situations in South Africa and beyond.

Professor Roland Kao, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh and a member of the Spi-M modeling group, notes that different types of Covid are spreading in the south. Africa The country uses different vaccines than those used in Britain.

In addition to the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, Janssen’s vaccine – not yet used in the UK – has been used and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine discontinued. Cao said some differences could help Britain, for example the longer interval between doses of the vaccine.

“The fact that we released a vaccine early and then a lot of people got infected [with Covid] It can also be useful in scaling up the immune response, which again could mean we have greater protection from [South Africa],” He said.

With Covid already “getting hot” in the UK and some European countries, capturing early signs of the Omicron effect is challenging. Prior to the discovery of the new variant, cases of Covid in South Africa were very low, meaning its impact was becoming apparent at an early stage.

New cases of COVID-19 have risen from a weekly average of around 300 a day to 1,000 last week, and most recently 3,500, said Dr Michele Gromm, of South Africa’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NICD).

UK cases

By contrast, the UK is seeing a huge number of cases per day – 53,945 on Thursday alone – with numbers fluctuating by several thousand from day to day. If Omicron leads to an increase in cases, it may take longer to become evident from this data alone.

However, case numbers are not the only source that scientists have to hand. One approach that experts are using to investigate the presence of Omicron in the UK is to look at test results for the coronavirus S gene in Covid-positive samples.

Omicron has a mutation that means it turns negative on such tests, as was the case for the Alpha variant, but not the Delta, which means the test can give a quick—albeit not conclusive—indication as to whether or not Omicron is present.

In a thread on TwitterProfessor Nick Davies of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine noted that in the five days to 28 November, there was an increase in gene S target failure in community test data in England from about 0.1% to about 0.3%.

About half of the PCR tests in the community are processed by labs that use such a test, Davies said, although the Guardian recognizes that there may be some prioritization of cases in areas where Omicron has already been found.

While Davis found the results equivalent to about 60 other samples that tested negative for gene S more than expected, he said the excess was likely due to Omicron cases and suggested the numbers would likely rise.

However, it remains unclear whether these cases are due to imported infections or related to community transmission. “So scientists in England will be watching this flow of data carefully over the next several days and weeks to see what happens,” Davies wrote.

Others also stressed that the situation in the UK is in its early days, but there are reasons for concern. “There was at least One large-scale event in Scotland – indicating the potential for rapid spread,” Kao said, adding that the results of the gene S test are among the evidence that the UK is also beginning to see signs of an exponential rise.

“There is good reason to believe that it is already spreading at a good rate,” Kao said. “But what we don’t know yet is whether or not this will continue, and also whether it will lead to a sustained increase in hospitalizations and deaths.”

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