England’s Covid Omicron hotspots revealed: West Northants is super-mutant capital as SAGE warns variant could trigger biggest EVER Covid wave in the New Year and data shows outbreaks are now growing in 90% of areas
- UK Health Security Agency Officials have revealed the top ten areas suffering the biggest Omicron outbreaks
- Eight are in London, suggesting that the capital may be at the epicentre of the outbreak
- West Northamptonshire has the most Omicron cases to date, and Buckinghamshire is also in the top ten
England’s Omicron hotspot is West Northamptonshire with up to 83 confirmed or suspected cases of the variant, health chiefs revealed today — as SAGE warned the super-mutant could trigger the country’s biggest ever wave.
The UK Health Security Agency said that eight of the ten areas with the biggest Omicron outbreaks are in London, listing Croydon (up to 10 cases), Hackney (14), Lambeth (16), Newham (22), Brent (14), Greenwich (16), Wandsworth (13) and Lewisham.
Buckinghamshire, in the home counties, was also on the list with seven confirmed cases and 15 probable infections.
But it is likely that Omicron is in many more local authorities. Some 817 cases in the UK — and 696 in England — have been confirmed to date, although the locations of many are not known.
Three of the areas recording the most Omicron cases are also seeing the fastest upticks in their infectiosn in the country. These are Greenwich (up 63 per cent in a week), Daventry in West Northamptonshire (up 46 per cent) and Newham (up 45 per cent).
Separate data revealed today that 90 per cent of local authorities in England are now seeing their infections begin to rise as the variant spreads in the country.
SAGE documents published yesterday suggest the UK could face its biggest wave of infections yet in January because of the variant’s suspected ability to evade immunity.
Scientists say Britain’s Omicron cases are already doubling every two to three days, and may be 20 times higher the actual figure. They say spikes in Covid cases are already being seen in some areas.
It now appears to be a foregone conclusion that it is more transmissible than Delta. Studies suggest it is also more likely to to break through immunity, although early data points to it being milder than other variants.
From next week, people in England will be advised to work from home, wear face masks in cinemas and theatres, and use vaccine passports for large events.
But SAGE Scientists warned of tougher Covid curbs to come today, saying the Government’s ‘Plan B’ does not go far enough to stop Omicron. They have warned that there could have been a million Omicron cases and 1,000 daily hospital admissions by the end of the year without Plan B.
The above map shows the ten areas that have the most confirmed Omicron cases in England, according to the UK Health Security Agency. West Northamptonshire is the country’s hotspot for the mutant strain, although eight in ten areas on the list are in London
The above graph shows the cumulative count for Omicron cases across the UK. Scientists say that there is no difference at present between England and Scotland’s outbreaks
There is growing pressure on the Government to tighten restrictions after the total number of British Omicron cases rose to 568 today, with the highly evolved variant now in every country in the UK and almost every region of England
In total, there are 46,000 Covid cases on average each day in the UK and data from the Covid Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) suggests the new strain is already behind around one in 66 of them, or 1.4 per cent
The UKHSA yesterday published a list of the top ten areas that have the most confirmed Omicron cases in England, and the number of suspected cases in each.
But they have refused to reveal the full list of areas where Omicron has emerged, although figures suggest it is already widespread.
Separate data showed that out of the ten areas with the fastest growing infection rates in England, five have already detected at least one case of Omicron.
Boris Johnson announced this evening that the Government is implementing its Covid Plan B.
The return of work from home guidance. People will be told to work from home in England from Monday if they are able to.
Face masks will be made compulsory in most public indoor venues including in cinemas and theatres from this Friday. They will not be required in pubs, restaurants and gyms.
The NHS Covid pass will be compulsory to gain access to nightclubs and other large venues where large crowds gather.
This will apply to all unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
Two vaccine doses will be treated as fully-vaccinated but this will be kept under review because of the booster programme.
A negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient.
This requirement will be rolled out in one week’s time to give businesses time to prepare.
Contacts of Omicron cases will be told to take daily coronavirus tests instead of having to self-isolate. They will have to quarantine if they test positive.
These included Greenwich (up 63 per cent in a week) and Newham (up 45 per cent in a week) in the capital.
And Daventry, part of West Northamptonshire (up 46 per cent in a week).
But Portsmouth (up 44 per cent) and Southwark (up 43 per cent) were also among the areas with the fastest growing outbreaks, having detected at least one case of Omicron.
There were also surging outbreaks in Copeland, Barking and Dagenham, West Devon, the Forest of Dean and East Lindsey despite none having any confirmed infections to date.
For comparison, across England cases rose 11 per cent last week.
Britain checks about 20 per cent of its Covid cases for variants, meaning many hundreds of Omicron cases could be flying under the radar.
UKHSA scientists say that the current tally is likely around 20 times higher than confirmed cases.
Omicron cases can only be confirmed using sequencing to check the virus’ genetics.
But PCRs can give an early indication of whether someone has the variant.
They look for three specific mutations to detect Covid, but in Omicron one is so mutated that it does not show up during the test.
Covid cases spiralled rapidly in South Africa after the mutant variant gained a foothold, with cases rocketing more than 300 per cent week-on-week for days on end.
SAGE adviser Professor Edmunds says this situation could be ‘immidiately translated’ to the UK because both countries have high levels of immunity.
In South Africa around 24 per cent of people are fully vaccinated, but most already have immunity from previous infection during a major wave.
In the UK around 70 per cent of people are now double-jabbed, and millions of others have immunity from previous infection.
He told a Royal Society of Medicine public lecture today: ‘South Africa’s situation…. I think you could immediately translate that to the UK. We both have high levels of immunity.
He added: ‘Could we potentially have something double quickly here? Yes, and that is exactly what we are now seeing.’
The top epidemiologist added, however, that it was still too early to tell whether the mutant strain is more mild than other variants.
MailOnline analysis shows fewer patients are being admitted to ICU in South Africa’s epicentre Gauteng now than at the same point during the Delta wave.
Experts said it was possible that the strain could be more mild, but added that more people have immunity now than when the other variant first took hold.
SAGE scientists are already ramping up the rhetoric to suggest that more restrictions could be needed in the country to keep the variant under control.
Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of No10’s top scientific advisory group, warned the UK could ‘need much more severe restrictions’. While Plan B will ‘slow the spread’ of the super-strain, the University College London epidemiologist argued the measures are ‘not going to turn around’ the looming wave of cases and hospitalisations.
Sajid Javid today claimed that the sudden shift to Plan B was ‘proportionate’ and would ‘buy time’ to allow the NHS to dish out millions more booster jabs.
But the Health Secretary also dangled the threat of even tougher orders being rolled out in the coming weeks, admitting that ministers will keep the current policies under constant review.
It means Britons could still be stung by last-minute Christmas curbs again after millions were deprived from seeing their loved ones last year when the Alpha variant took off.
SAGE modeller Dr Mike Tildesley hinted at a watered down Christmas this year, claiming that it was ‘very important’ to allow people to be together this year — but in a ‘safe way’.
Mr Johnson has already hinted that Covid jabs could eventually be compulsory, telling last night’s Downing Street conference that a ‘national conversation’ on the matter is likely to be needed in the future. And while vaccine passports have only been imposed on large scale events at the moment, Mr Johnson suggested they could be rolled out more widely in society.
The Government is already being lobbied by independent scientists to go harder, with Independent SAGE, a ‘zero Covid’ group of experts, telling ministers to ‘bring in more measures right now… then we may be able to avoid a lockdown’.
Yesterday Professor Neil Ferguson, one of SAGE’s top modellers, warned a full-blown lockdown might be needed to protect the NHS from Omicron.
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