The UK could face “tougher measures” after Christmas to counter the spread of the Omicron variant during the holiday season, an expert told Sky News.
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said that the emergence of Omicron in the UK was “appalling timing” as the next few weeks are “one of the most risky times … with a lot of socializing inside”.
He said the government “would like not to disrupt Christmas,” but warned: “What happens after Christmas is another matter.
âTravel restrictions are only going to slow things down a bit, they are not going to stop them.
“In the new year we will probably see a lot of challenges and that could mean tougher measures.”
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News on Sunday: “The government wants people to enjoy Christmas this year,” adding that employers should take a “common sense” approach to office parties.
Although the UK is still awaiting actual data on the new variant, Professor Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, said he currently does not appear to be at as much of a serious disease risk.
âIt doesn’t seem like a big deal if you get it,â he said. “I think that’s about all we can say at the moment.”
He also praised the booster vaccines for “saving so many lives”.
“This is a very strange situation that we find ourselves in, where the cases in young people are increasing, but the cases in the elderly are decreasing,” he said.
“That’s the booster effect – we’re basically saved by the boosters – they’re extraordinarily effective.”
He said that after three doses of a COVID vaccine “you are more protected than you have ever been, even from the start”.
But he warned that annual booster shots would likely be a reality in order to boost people’s immunity to the virus.
âI think we’ll be receiving boosters for the foreseeable future,â he said, suggesting that Omicron could become endemic.
“It’s not clear what this is going to mean for our lives. But we’re going to have to get used to it,” he added.
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This came after Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced the return of pre-departure coronavirus tests for all people arriving in the UK.
The British Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) said the general measures on testing, which will take effect at 4 a.m. on December 7, are a response to scientists saying Omicron may have a “reduced incubation period”.
This means that there might be a smaller window between someone catching the virus and becoming infectious than with the previous variants.
Although Prof Spiegelhalter said the travel restrictions would “slow” the spread of Omicron in the UK, he stressed that working from home “is extremely effective” because it “cuts in half the number of close contacts that people have “.