A Steps concert in Glasgow is among the sources of new Omicron cases in the UK, it has emerged, as health officials revealed more than half of England’s infections of the new variant were in double-vaccinated people.
A UK Health Security Agency analysis showed 12 of the 22 known cases up to November 30 — 55 per cent — were in people who had at least two doses.
Six were unvaccinated, two were partially vaccinated with one dose and the vaccination status of the remaining two is not known.
None of the cases are known to have been hospitalised or died, but the HSA said that “most of the cases have a specimen date that is very recent and that there is a lag between onset of infection and hospitalisation and death”.
Cases of Omicron in the UK have risen to 59 since. The variant has been detected in more than 30 countries.
Meanwhile, six cases are understood to be linked to the Steps concert at the Glasgow Hydro on November 22, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said. Risk to those who attended is said to be low and those who may have come into contact with the new variant at the event are being contacted. Omicron cases in Scotland have jumped by 16 in the past 24 hours to 29.
The news comes as:
- Ireland will reintroduce some Covid-19 restrictions for the Christmas period, following “very stark” advice from health officials, Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said. A range of restrictions will be in place from December 7 to January 9, including the shuttering of nightclubs and new limits on household gatherings.
- The ramped-up rollout of Covid booster jabs will be in place by December 13, NHS England has said. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that all adults should become eligible for boosters and that the time between a second dose and booster should be reduced from six months to three months, in a move designed to help protect against the new Omicron variant of Covid.
- The first case in Wales of the Omicron coronavirus variant has been confirmed. The case is in the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board area and is linked to international travel, the Welsh Government said.
- The Omicron variant would likely be capable of causing a new wave of coronavirus infections that could be even bigger than previous waves, government scientists warned. A note of the meeting of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) subgroup on Sars-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529 on November 25, was released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on Friday. In it the scientists conclude: “We cannot exclude that this wave would be of a magnitude similar, or even larger, than previous waves.”
The UK government said as of 9am on Friday, there had been a further 50,584 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.
The government also said a further 143 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday.
Despite concerns about the Omicron variant, Boris Johnson has said Christmas should go ahead “as normally as possible” this year.
Speaking during a by-election campaign visit to Oswestry in North Shropshire, the prime minister said that people did not need to cancel parties or nativity plays.
Asked what he had to say to bereaved families following claims Number 10 had held parties last year in breach of restrictions at the time, Johnson said: “What I’ve said throughout, since this thing was brought up, was that’s not true, we’ve followed the guidance throughout and continued to follow the guidance.
“And on the subject of Christmas parties, I’ve noticed there’s been quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about it, people concerned that they need to cancel their Christmas parties. That’s not right, we’re not saying that and we’re not saying that nativity plays have to be cancelled.
“I believe very strongly that kids should be in school and I also think that Christmas should go ahead as normally as possible. But the key point, the key point is that whatever the risk Omicron may pose, or may not pose, the booster is everywhere and always, vaccination is going to be your best protection, so everybody should get it.”
Asked again repeatedly if he did have a party or gathering, the prime minister repeated the phrase: “We followed the guidance.”