19 Dec 2021
Omicron Cases in UK Surged at 25,000; Scientists See Bigger Wave
The Index Today
UK reported an unexpected growth in cases of the new COVID variant, Omicron on Saturday which government said could be just the start of the bigger wave, and London's mayor announced a "major incident" to help the city's hospitals cope.
As of 1800 GMT on Friday, the number of Omicron cases recorded across the country hit almost 25,000 up by more than 10,000 cases from 24 hours earlier, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.
UKHSA also recorded seven people to have had the Omicron variant had died as of Thursday. Admissions to hospital of people thought to have the variant increased to 85 from 65 cases.
The UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said that it was "almost certain" that hundreds of thousands of people were being infected with the variant every day and were not being picked up in the figures.
SAGE said without a further tightening of COVID-19 rules, "modelling indicates a peak of at least 3,000 hospital admissions per day in England," they said in minutes of a meeting on Dec. 16.
The advisors mentioned that it was too early to assess the severity of disease caused by Omicron but if there was a modest reduction compared to the Delta variant, "very high numbers of infections would still lead to significant pressure on hospitals".
London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a "major incident" - which allows for closer coordination between public agencies and possibly more central government support - as COVID-19 hospital admissions in the city rose by nearly 30% this week.
He said health worker absences had also increased.
"This is a statement of how serious things are," he said.
London officials said on Friday that the Omicron variant is estimated to account for more than 80% of new COVID-19 cases in London.