When speaking about the Omicron variant at a press briefing, one of the country’s leading doctors said “it’s not just pessimism”.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Omicron a ‘variant of concern’, and a case has been discovered in Nottingham, which the British Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed.
It has since emerged that this person was a student at the University of Nottingham, which left students worried about the spread of the virus and the variant.
Professor Jonathan Van Tam is Deputy Chief Government Officer and Professor at the University of Nottingham School of Medicine, and in a clip posted on Twitter by the Department of Health and Welfare he gave reasons for ‘to be optimistic.
He spoke before he emerged, there are now a total of 104 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in England.
Professor Van Tam said: “On the effects of the new variants and the holding of the vaccine’s efficacy, I want to be clear here, it’s not entirely pessimistic at this point, and I don’t want them to people panic at this stage organize.
“If the efficacy of the vaccine is reduced, as seems quite likely to some extent, the most important effects will probably be the prevention of infections and hopefully the effects will be less in the prevention of serious illness.
“But it’s something that scientists need to work on in the next few weeks.”
Speaking earlier this week, Professor Ian Hall, director of the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Center which has helped lead the city’s scientific fight against Covid, said that although preliminary data suggests it is more infectious than the existing variants, it is certainly “too early” to say so.
He said: “It might not matter too much if it causes mild illness, but the worst-case scenario is if it causes more serious illness as it would lead to a sharp increase in hospitalizations.
“I tend to be optimistic, and most variant mutations usually make cases more mild than severe.
“But the simple answer is, we don’t know at this point yet, it’s too early to tell.”
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