Early research suggests that Omicron’s spike protein – which is harbouring up to 36 mutations – is more effective at entering human cells than Delta’s spike protein, or indeed the original coronavirus. The pre-print paper, published in medRxiv, suggests that Omicron can infect cells more quickly and easily. “Strikingly, Omicron was four-fold more infectious than [the original coronavirus] and two-fold more infectious than Delta,” noted researcher Wilfredo Garcia-Beltran.
The fellow at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital warned that Omicron “is more infectious than any other variant tested”.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, also described Omicron as “extraordinarily contagious”.
The White House medical advisor said omicron “outstripped even the most contagious of the previous ones, including Delta”.
Considering the “rapid spread of this extraordinary variant”, Dr Fauci is concerned that hospitals may be pushed to breaking point.
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This is especially true in areas where there is a larger proportion of unvaccinated individuals.
While Omicron seems to cause a less mild infection, providing relief for many, its high transmissibility is still frightening.
As the virus is able to spread more rapidly, more people who are at risk of becoming ill from the virus could get ill at the same time, which may overwhelm the NHS.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not yet introduced new restrictions to help curb the rate of infection.
Latest data from the UK Health Security Agency confirmed there have been 407 hospitalisations and 39 deaths.
Breaking down the data, London is the most prolific area for Omicron cases, closely followed by the South East.
Regions where the number of Omicron cases have been confirmed, from the worst affected area to the least, are:
- South East
- North West
- South West
- East Midlands
- West Midlands
- East of England
- Yorkshire and Humber
- North East.
There have, however, been 22,983 people who have received their booster on Boxing Day.
The total number of people who have now been boosted stands at 32,480,361.
Meanwhile, the number of people catching Omicron is staggering, increasing more than 30 percent compared to the week prior.
The number of deaths, however, have still been on the decline, which is favourable news.
This is in spite of an increased number of hospital admissions within the UK.
While health secretary Sajid Javid said there will be “no further measures before the new year” for England, other parts of the UK are now living by new restrictions.
In Scotland, indoor events are limited to 100 standing and 200 seated, while outdoor events are limited to 500 seated or standing.
Nightclubs are also closed for the next three weeks, whereas pubs and bars have returned to table service only.
In Wales, people are limited to meeting up in groups of six indoor hospitality venues and table service has been reintroduced, and nightclubs are closed. The same rules apply in Northern Ireland, except 10 people can meet up indoors from a single household.