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Government Confirms There Are Now Omicron Cases In Hospitals

4 min read

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has said there are now people with the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 being treated in hospitals, as cases escalate rapidly.

"I can confirm to you this morning there are cases in hospital with Omicron," Zahawi told Sky News's Trevor Phillips on Sunday. 

A total of 54,073 covid cases were confirmed in England yesterday, including 633 of the Omicron variant, although the real number of cases of the highly transmissible variant is expected to be much higher. 

Zahawi said that Omicron is "currently on an exponential growth curve" and predicted we could reach one million infections by the end of this month. 

"One third of infections in London are Omicron," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr.

"We know it’s much more infectious than Delta. We’ve seen this movie before with Kent and Delta and now with Omicron."

Scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have warned of a major new wave of the virus in January, with modelling suggesting that there could be between 25,000 and 75,000 Covid deaths by April. 

The reasearch is based on "Plan B" Covid restrictions that are currently in place, although around 60 Conservative MPs are expected to rebel against the measures when they are put before parliament this week. 

The research also indicated that increased uptake of booster jabs would have a significant impact on curbing Omicron, a message echoed by Zahawi on Sunday morning. 

"We are now in a race to get all adults who are eligible for their booster jab to be boostered as quickly as possible, and the Prime Minister will be saying more about this later today," Zahawi told Sky News. 

Speaking to the BBC, he emphasised that boosters are the "most important thing" in tackling Omicron. 

"We are going to be turbo charging the booster campaign, I will do everything in my power to explain to the nation why you should get a booster," he continued. 

There has been criticism that the government has been too slow in getting high numbers of the population to take up boosters, with only 18% of 40-50 year olds having had a jab. 

Zahawi confirmed that from Monday those aged 30 and over will be able to book a booster so long as it's at least three months since their second dose, and noted that walk-in centres across the country had seen huge queues throughout the weekend. 

In the coming days resource is expected to be ploughed into the NHS, GP network, community pharmacies, and vaccine volunteer networks, with the support of the military, in order to sgnificantly increase the availability of boosters. 

"We have been working all of last week on the plan of how we’re going to mobilise again," Zahawi said.

Chief medical adviser to the government Dr Susan Hopkins also warned of Omicron hospitalisations in England.

"The sheer weight of numbers coming at us with Omicron means it will find people who are unvaccinated and we will see people in hospital," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr. 

South Africa has seen the biggest wave of Omicron, and while there has been hope that levels of severe disease don't seem to match high case numbers, Hopkins said that hospitals in the region still faced significant pressure. 

"Even though there's a lot of mild disease, it's still using a rapidly increasing number of beds over the last ten days," she said. 

Hopkins said there were now reports of Omicron cases in English hospitals, and that people were also testing positive for Covid when presenting to A&E with other conditions. 

She confirmed that there had been no Omicron deaths in England yet, but that it was likely there simply hadn't been enough time for the variant to have become fatal. 

"It's important to remember that it's just over two weeks since UK cases were confirmed, and we see hospitalisations at two weeks, and deaths at four," Hopkins added. 

"It's too early to make assumptions at this point."

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