Saturday, December 04, 2021

UK: England Detects An Additional 75 Omicron Cases (n=104) - Scotland Increases By 16 (n=29)



The UK is a world leader in both the testing for - and genomic sequencing of - COVID infections, making it unsurprising that they have already reached triple digits in confirmed Omicron cases.  

While other countries outside of Africa may have as many, or perhaps even more cases than the UK - without comparable testing - it is impossible to know. 

At the rate Omicron is spreading, however, it appears well on its world tour.  The question of virulence remains unanswered, and while we haven't seen reports of severe illness or death with Omicron, it is still early days. 

I'm seeing a lot of online speculation that Omicron is a milder, but more transmissible variant. And while that could be true - and could very well be a blessing - it is far from established fact. Also, that wouldn't preclude our seeing yet another, more virulent variant, emerge in the months ahead. 

Until we better know what we are dealing with, it is only prudent to act as if Omicron is at least as dangerous as Delta.  We can always pop the champagne corks later. 

We've two reports this morning from the UK.  First, the update from UKHSA on the number of new cases (n=75) detected in England, followed by a statement from Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

A further 75 cases of Omicron variant confirmed

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has identified 75 further cases of COVID-19 with mutations consistent with B.1.1.529 in England, in addition to the previous 29 confirmed cases of the SARS-CoV-2 variant known as B.1.1.529.

The total number of confirmed cases in England is now 104.

The individuals who have tested positive and their contacts have been asked to self-isolate. Work is underway to identify any links to travel. We have now identified cases in the East Midlands, East of England, London, North East, North West, South East, South West and West Midlands. UKHSA is carrying out targeted testing at locations where the positive cases were likely to be infectious.

1 case has been identified in Wales. A further 16 cases have been identified in Scotland, bringing the total in Scotland to 29. There are no confirmed cases in Northern Ireland.

Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said:
Increased case detection through focused contact tracing has led to more cases of the Omicron variant being identified and confirmed, as we have seen in other countries globally.
We are continuing to monitor the data closely. Teams nationally and locally are working at pace to identify and trace all close contacts of every Omicron case. It is critical that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately.
We have started to see cases where there are no links to travel, suggesting that we have a small amount of community transmission. That’s why it’s so important that everybody, everywhere, takes simple steps to protect themselves from infection. Please wear face coverings in line with government guidance, let in fresh air when mixing indoors and wash your hands regularly.
Vaccination is critical to help us bolster our defences against this new variant so please get your first, second, third or booster jab as soon as you are eligible to protect yourself, your families and your communities.

Where individuals are identified as being a possible or probable case of Omicron, their close contacts will be contacted and advised they are required to isolate for 10 days, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or received a negative COVID-19 test result. Everybody who is contacted or has symptoms should take a PCR test as soon as possible, even if they have received a positive COVID-19 PCR test within the last 90 days.

UKHSA is acting to get scientific information available as quickly as possible in order to inform the right balance of interventions to prevent transmission and protect lives. This will include analysing live samples of the new variant in our laboratories to investigate properties including its response to current vaccines.

As viruses mutate often and at random, it is not unusual for small numbers of cases to arise featuring new sets of mutations. Any variants showing evidence of spread are rapidly assessed.

This from the Scottish Government website:

Cases no longer linked to single event.

Commenting on the increase in Omicron cases to 29, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“The number of Omicron cases now being reported in Scotland is rising, and cases are no longer all linked to a single event, but to several different sources including a Steps concert at the Hydro on 22 November. This confirms our view that there is now community transmission of this variant within Scotland. Given the nature of transmission we would expect to see cases rise - perhaps significantly - in the days ahead. However, health protection teams are continuing work through contact tracing, isolation and testing to slow the spread as far as possible while we learn more about the new variant’s impact. Ministers are also keeping the situation under daily review.”

There are currently six Omicron cases linked to the concert on 22nd November. To date no cases have been identified from the concert on 23rd November. Risk to those who attended the concert is low and those who may have come into contact with Omicron are being contacted. No one from the concert needs to isolate, unless asked to by Test & Protect or if they develop symptoms.