The UK should expect “substantially more cases” of the Omicron variant in the next few days, a leading covid expert has said.
Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Government’s scientific advisory committee Sage, said it was likely the variant had already “seeded” in the country due to international travel and speculated there could be as many as 100 people infected with Omicron.
He called on ministers to keep “all options on the table” in terms of lockdown measures if Omicron made an impact on vaccines and hospital admissions by January.
Prof Ferguson told Radio 4’s The World This Weekend: “I think there will be substantially more cases … We should expect to have been seeded with infection. Though I support the measures introduced, we would like to slow that as much as possible, and slow the risks of spread.”
Given Delta was still dominant in the UK, the true effects, if any would not be seen until the new year, Prof Ferguson said.
He added: “Even if we have had 100 or more cases seeded into the country and even if it’s going quite quickly it will take really until January for it to reach levels which are anywhere near the levels we’re getting from Delta at the moment, we’re getting 40,000 cases a day or so from Delta.
“That’s not to say we can be complacent. If we do see very rapid growth from Omicron, and that’s a big if at the moment, we have no guarantee we will, but if we do then undoubtedly I think the government would be wise to keep all options on the table in terms of how to respond to that.”