Omicron variant latest – How mutant covid strain could END pandemic if global cases remain mild like South Africa

IF global Omicron cases remain mild globally then many are suggesting this could be the 'end of the pandemic'.

Currently Scientist within South Africa have said that symptoms of the new variant remain mild, although the country does have a younger population.

It is currently unknown how the new variant affects older people, however if it turns out to be a weak variant against the young and elderly then it could help to end the pandemic.

If this variant was to become the dominant one and has a mild affect then it could be good news.

Piers Morgan Tweeted this morning "Nobody knows yet how it affects older people. If it turns out to be a rapid-infecting but weak variant for all ages, that could be Utopia for ending the pandemic."

Read our Omicron live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Louis Allwood

    What countries are on the red list?

    Here is the full run down of red-list countries as of October 4, 2021

    • Angola
    • Botswana
    • Eswatini
    • Lesotho
    • Malawi
    • Mozambique
    • Namibia
    • South Africa
    • Zambia
    • Zimbabwe

    Who is eligible to get the Covid booster?

    Those who have already had their second Covid vaccine dose six months ago will be able to have the booster.

    However, you don't have to wait until the six-month mark to book, as the NHS is sending invitations to arrive at five months after the second dose.

    People who will be invited for a booster include:

    • people aged 40 and over
    • people who live and work in care homes
    • frontline health and social care workers
    • people aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from Covid
    • people aged 16 and over who are a main carer for someone at high risk from Covid
    • people aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)

    How to book your booster vaccine?

    First you need to go to the dedicated NHS booking site – you can only book through this is you are 40 years or older or you have a medical condition which puts you in the vulnerable category.

    When you book your jab, you’ll only need to select a time and day for one slot – unlike booking the first and second dose when you were asked to book them both at once.

    If you have recently had coronavirus then you should wait four weeks before booking your appointment. 

    To book your appointment you need to click the green “book now” button.

    You'll then be asked if you know your NHS number or not. 

    If you have your NHS number it will make it a little bit faster to book, if not you then have to fill out all of your personal details.

    People can also book by calling 119.

    Text invites will come from NHSvaccine and will include a link to the NHS website, enabling anyone eligible to book an appointment at a convenient site nearby.

    People who have not received their invitation can book an appointment on the NHS website or call 119.

    • Louis Allwood

      Covid booster struggle

      Brits were unable to book booster jabs online even though Health Secretary Sajid Javid's announced millions could get a third jab early.

      A massive 40 million people will be able to get a third vaccine dose in the fight against the terrifying new Omicron variant after changes in eligibility requirements were announced yesterday.

      The age of eligibility was cut from 40 to 18, with the gap needed between a second and third dose slashed from six months to three.

      Ministers have pledged to remain on the “front foot” in the fight against the Covid super-strain as they ramped up the nation's vaccine defences.

      Health Secretary Sajid Javid says the NHS booster programme is being put "on steroids", with reports the Government wants to boost take-up to 3.5 million a week, up from 2.4 million a week currently.

      Yesterday's announcement sparked a scramble on the NHS vaccine booking website, with thousands of people waiting in online queues to secure a slot.

      But frustrated Brits aged 18 or over who would now be eligible were confused after being unable to book a vaccine appointment.

      Others aged 40 or over who were jabbed more than three months ago also couldn't book a slot, with the change in the time-gap between second and third doses not yet updated on the NHS website.

    • Louis Allwood

      Covid booster jab will be on offer to over 18's

      All people aged 18 and over are to be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine as part of efforts to tackle the spread of the new Omicron variant.

      Millions more people in the UK will become eligible for a third booster dose after early evidence suggested that higher antibody levels may protect better against the variant.

      The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is now advising that all adults aged 18 to 39 should be offered a booster dose, in order of descending age groups, to increase their level of protection. Those aged 40 and over are already eligible for a booster vaccine.

      Booster doses should be given no sooner than three months after people have had their second dose of an original vaccine – shaving three months off the current six-month wait, according to the JCVI.

      In further advice, young people aged 12 to 15 should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after their first dose.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Omicron may already be in Northern Ireland

      The new Omicron variant of Covid-19 may already be in Northern Ireland, the Stormont health minister has said.

      Cases of the new strain have been confirmed in England and Scotland, while Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said it is "likely" that it is already in Ireland

      Robin Swann told the Northern Ireland Assembly that, while there are currently no confirmed cases of Omicron in the region, that is "highly likely" to change in the coming days.

      He told MLAs that, while there is limited evidence of the impact of the new variant, there are concerns around the potential for it to be resistant to vaccines and more transmissible.

      "At this particular moment, there have been no confirmed cases of the Omicron variant identified in Northern Ireland, but it is highly likely that this position will change in the coming days," he said.

    • Joseph Gamp

      What should my employer be doing to protect me at work?

      According to government guidance, employers should:

      • Complete a Covid-19 risk assessment, and share it with all staff.
      • Clean more often, especially surfaces that people touch a lot. Staff and customers to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.
      • Remind visitors to wear face coverings where the law says they must.
      • Make sure everyone can maintain social distancing, for example putting up signs or introducing a one-way system.
      • Provide adequate ventilation by supplying fresh air to enclosed space where people are present. For example via windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both.
      • Take part in NHS Test and Trace.
      • Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away.
      • Arrange work spaces to keep staff apart.
      • Reduce face-to-face meetings.
      • Reduce crowding.

      Your employer does owe a duty of care to you and other members of staff.

      But, "they do not have an obligation to arrange or pay for any safe transport to and from the workplace (unless contractually obliged to) and this is generally not a reason to refuse to attend," advises Groves.

      What are the current laws on working from home?

      People are not required to work from home at the moment after the rule was scrapped in summer.

      However, some experts have called on the government to implement its Plan B to tackle the spread of Covid-19 – which includes the return of face coverings, working from home and vaccine passports.

      From Tuesday, November 30, it is once again compulsory to wear a face mask when visiting some public spaces including shops, hairdressers, nail salons and when using public transport.

      Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the country is "nowhere near" reintroducing working from home or social distancing measures to combat coronavirus. However, some companies are still allowing their employees to work from home, while others are implementing a mix of WFH and office work.

      Mr Javid told Sky's Trevor Phillips on Sunday: "We know now those types of measures do carry a very heavy price, both economically, socially, in terms of non-Covid health outcomes such as impact on mental health. So, if one was to make decisions like that they would have to be done very, very carefully and we're not there yet, we're nowhere near that."

      Volunteers urged to help NHS deliver vaccine programme

      Volunteers are being urged to help the "vital national effort" of expanding the coronavirus vaccination programme as the head of NHS England warned that the service "will not be able to do it alone".

      Chief executive Amanda Pritchard said the Omicron variant arriving on UK shores serves as a "wake-up call".

      Many people donated their time when the vaccination programme first began as the nation was facing lockdown and the emergence of the Alpha variant of Covid-19.

      Now volunteers are being urged to come forward again as the NHS prepares for an expansion of the programme.

      Ms Pritchard also said that NHS staff will "move heaven and earth to vaccinate as many people as possible" to ensure that people can enjoy Christmas with their loved ones.

      • Joseph Gamp

        Closing schools 'last possible option' in fight against Omicron

        Closing schools is the last possible option in the fight against the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Education Secretary has said.

        Nadhim Zahawi said he does not support the return of "bubbles" in schools – where whole classes or year groups could be sent home after a positive Covid-19 test – as it reduces attendance "significantly".

        His comments came as targeted testing of pupils began in two schools in Essex and Nottinghamshire after cases of the Omicron variant were detected in the local areas.

        Face masks are being recommended in communal areas of England's secondary schools and colleges, but teaching unions are calling for tougher measures to be implemented to stop the spread of coronavirus.

        The Education Secretary told ITV's This Morning programme: "The best place for children to be is in a classroom, learning."

        Asked if closing schools was the "last possible option", he said: "Absolutely."

        Mr Zahawi added: "Keep schools open: do all the things necessary, like face masks in communal areas… to protect the education in the classroom.

        "Face masks are not a panacea… these are all interventions that just help you slow the virus… from accelerating too quickly."

      • Joseph Gamp

        Around 13m over-18s will become eligible for booster shots by end of the year

        Government scientists confirmed an extra 13 million over-18s will become eligible for a third shot of the vaccine before the end of the year.

        Kids aged 12 to 15 will also be offered a second dose of the vaccine, in an attempt to shore up the nation’s immunity in the face of the worrying new strain.

        Experts hope cutting the gap between the second and third doses of the jab from six to three months will allow the UK to get ahead of the new Covid variant.

      • Joseph Gamp

        'Many more cases expected in coming days'

        Officials are desperately trying to stop the spread, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid warning many more cases are expected within days.

        Yesterday, Sajid Javid told the Commons: "There have now been five confirmed case in England and six in Scotland.

        "We expect cases to rise over the coming days.

        "The new variant has been spreading in the world – its been reported in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Netherlands.

        "In this race between vaccines and virus, this variant may have given the virus extra legs.

        "Our strategy is to buy time and strengthen defences while scientists learn more."

      • Joseph Gamp

        Omicron variant news: The latest

        • Millions to get booster jab EARLY in race to save Christmas from Omicron – as 2nd dose deemed safe for kids
        • Two new Omicron cases takes UK total to 11 – amid fears of spread with 'many more expected in DAYS'
        • Certain people ‘appear at greater risk of Omicron variant’, doctor who first spotted strain warns
        • Brits told it's 'time to be vigilant' in order to save Christmas as Omicron cases start to spiral

        NHS will deliver booster campaign 'in an orderly way' says JVT

        The NHS will deliver the booster campaign in an "orderly" way, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said, to avoid younger people jumping ahead of those who are more vulnerable to Covid-19.

        "The important message that the NHS wanted me to convey to you today is that they understand the real urgency of this," England's chief medical officer said.

        "They are up for the task but they say that they will contact you when you need to act and they will open the booking in an orderly way.

        "One of the things we really don't want is people from the very youngest, now eligible, cohorts somehow getting in front of people who are at a much higher risk of a bad outcome if they were to get Covid-19."

        Labour says variant 'is a wake up call'

        Shadow health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, deputising for Jon Ashworth after he tested positive for Covid, told MPs: "This variant is a wake-up call.

        "The pandemic is not over, we need to act with speed to bolster our defences to keep the virus at bay and it is also an important reminder that no-one is safe until all of us are safe."

        Dr Allin-Khan called for pre-departure testing to prevent people with Covid arriving in the UK.

        She added: "We support the decision to introduce masks on public transport and in shops, but we believe this should never have been abandoned in the first place. Keeping masks in place would always have been our Plan A.

        "Will the Secretary of State extend the use of masks to hospitality and other settings or does Covid not spread in pubs?"

        Labour MP Peter Kyle (Hove) could be heard shouting at a handful of unmasked Tory MPs to "put it on", with Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) replying: "No."

        • Joseph Gamp

          Sajid Javid: We can keep this virus at bay by 'coming together again'

          The Health Secretary said: "If it emerges that this variant is no more dangerous than the Delta variant, then we won't keep measures in place for a day longer than necessary."

          Sajid Javid told the Commons: "Our experience of fighting this virus has shown us that it's best to act decisively and swiftly when we see a potential threat. Which is why we're building our defences and putting these measures in place without delay."

          He said "we are taking a well-rounded view" looking at the impact of the measures on the virus, economy, education and non-Covid health.

          He said: "I'm confident that these responses that we've set out today, they are balances and responsible steps that are proportionate to the threat that we face."

          He said: "We always knew there would be bumps in the road, but this is not a time to waver, it's a time to be vigilant and to think about what each and everyone one of us can do to slow the spread of this new variant".

          He encouraged people to get a jab at the appropriate time, follow the rules and take regular tests.

          Mr Javid added: "If we all come together once again, then we can keep this virus at bay and protect the progress that we have made."

        • Joseph Gamp

          No.10 rejects proposals for arrivals to self-isolate for 10 days

          Downing Street has rejected a joint call from the Scottish and Welsh first ministers for stricter travel restrictions to help combat the spread of the new variant.

          No 10 rejected the proposal for arrivals to the UK to self-isolate for eight days, with tests on day two and day eight.

          Currently, passengers arriving in the UK from 4am on Tuesday will be required to take a PCR test by the end of their second day from entry and isolate until they receive a negative test, while 10 southern African nations have been added to the red travel list.

          The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We believe that the approach we've taken is the proportionate one to the evidence that we currently have available about this variant.

          "Introducing further isolation requirements and testing requirements would have a detrimental effect on the travel industry and indeed those who are planning to go travelling."

        • Joseph Gamp

          Boosters extended to all over-18s in Scotland

          Boosters vaccinations will be extended to all over-18s in Scotland after six cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant were identified north of the border.

          The Scottish Government confirmed the change after the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended it to help tackle the new variant.

          It follows four cases being confirmed in Lanarkshire and two in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

          Scotland 's chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, said: "We welcome the further advice from the JCVI on the Covid-19 vaccination programme and confirm Scotland has already started work on its implementation, including the recommendation that boosters can now be given to all adults no less than three months after a second dose.

          "Urgent talks with health boards and vaccination partners are underway and further information on the delivery of this advice will follow as soon as possible."

        • Joseph Gamp

          Italy confirms 65 new Covid deaths

          Italy reported 65 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday against 47 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 7,975 from 12,932.

          Italy has registered 133,739 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth-highest in the world. The country has reported 5.02 million cases to date.

          Patients in hospital with COVID-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 5,135 on Monday, up from 4,964 a day earlier.

        • Joseph Gamp

          Rebel MPs continue to shun mask wearing in the Commons

          A group of Conservative MPs have continued to shun mask-wearing in the House of Commons, despite tougher measures for the public in response to the new Omicron variant.

          Face coverings will be compulsory on public transport and in shops in England from Tuesday.

          But a handful of backbench Tories appeared maskless in the Commons chamber on Monday, with one openly shouting his opposition to pleas from Labour MPs to put one on.

          Face coverings are already compulsory for staff, contractors and journalists but not MPs, although they were earlier this month advised to wear them.

          Speaking in the Commons, shadow health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said: "We support the decision to introduce masks on public transport and in shops, but we believe this should never have been abandoned in the first place.

          "Keeping masks in place would always have been our Plan A.

          "Will the Secretary of State extend the use of masks to hospitality and other settings or does Covid not spread in pubs?"

        • Milica Cosic

          New pingdemic

          A NEW pingdemic arising from the latest Covid variant would knock at least £2billion off the economy, a think tank claims.

          The Institute of Economic Affairs believes the measures could end up hammering the economy.

          Spokesman Julian Jessop said: “The main short-term risk to the economy comes from the tightening of the self-isolation rules, which could trigger another pingdemic.

          "This would disrupt schools and businesses in the crucial pre-Christmas period.”

          Labour shortages would amplify the impact compared with the July pingdemic — costing £2billion, he added.

          Read the article in full here.

        • Milica Cosic

          Where DON'T I have to wear a face mask?

          Pubs and restaurants – The government has decided not to make masks mandatory in pubs and restaurants.

          The Prime Minister's spokesman said: "People will be using public transport, obviously people will be going into shops where there are crowded spaces, and there are particular challenges around hospitality with regards to people eating and drinking, which the minister talked about this morning."

          However, the British Medical Association said that staff in pubs and restaurants should be required to wear face coverings when serving customers.

          Cinemas and theatres – It will not be compulsory to wear a face mask at entertainment venues such as the theatre or at the cinema.

          However, some companies will still encourage people to wear a mask when not eating or drinking.

          Streets and parks – You do not need to wear a face mask when walking in outdoor spaces such as streets and parks.

        • Milica Cosic

          Restrictions mark a screeching U-turn

          The restrictions mark a screeching U-turn in England's roadmap out of lockdown.

          Brits were finally allowed to fling off their masks on July 19 this year, as the nation celebrated Freedom Day and an end to all restrictions.

          Mr Javid has warned more cases are expected in the coming days, with Omicron spreading to other countries.

          Experts have warned Omicron, which spreads rapidly and has about 50 mutations, could pose a threat to current vaccines.

        • Milica Cosic

          Brits can be fined for not wearing masks from tomorrow

          BRITS who fail to wear a mask in shops and on public transport face a maximum fine of £6,400 from TOMORROW. 

          Penalties of £200 will be handed to people in England who don't wear a face covering under new Government rules to crack down on the Omicron Covid variant.

          As well as shops, buses trains and trams, masks must also be worn in hairdressers, nail salons, banks and post offices in England under new curbs from 4am tomorrow.

          Masks won't be required in the hospitality sector, meaning they aren't needed in restaurants and pubs, or by law in venues like concerts, cinemas and theatres.  

          People who continually fail to comply with the rules will have their fine doubled with each offence.

          A first fine will cost £200 with a second infraction £400, an £800 charge for a third offence up to the maximum penalty of £6,400. 

        • Milica Cosic

          Countries slamming their doors shut

          Despite the global worry, scientists said it's still unclear whether Omicron is more alarming than other versions of the virus which has killed more than 5 million people.

          Nations around the world have slammed their doors shut to in a bid to keep the new variant out.

          EU member states have closed their borders to travellers from seven southern African countries – Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

          In the UK, the government stopped short of a travel ban, but now require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test on the second day after arriving in the country, and contacts of suspected cases will be asked to self-isolate for 10 days. 

          Taking no chances, Japan has reimposed border controls, Israel has decided to bar entry to foreigners, and Morocco said it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks starting on Monday.

          The US is also banning travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries starting on Monday. 

          Source: Read Full Article