One-third of London Covid cases is Omicron variant, says Zahawi
One-in-three Covid-19 cases in London are now the Omicron variant, according to education secretary Nadhim Zahawi.
Zahawi said there could be up to 160,000 cases of the highly transmissible variant in the UK already, despite the official recorded number being only 1600.
The education secretary also confirmed that there are now people who have been hospitalised after being infected with the variant.
Omicron, which was first discovered in South Africa, is much more transmissible than previous variants but there is no evidence that suggests it is more deadly.
“We know that it is highly infectious so the doubling rate is between two and three days,” he told Sky News.
“Very quickly Omicron will be the dominant variant in the UK. Probably the rest of the world.”
“We’ve seen this movie before, with the Kent variant, with Delta. One of the advantages we have is we’ve got a very large capacity for testing and genome sequencing.”
Zahawi said there was now clear evidence that two doses of the vaccine is not as effective against Omicron.
“Two doses of Pfizer or Astra Zeneca are not enough, but a booster does raise that protection back up to where we were,” he said.
“We need to get back to that, we need to vaccinate with a third jab, a booster jab. It’s so important. It’s now a race between the booster and that protection against the Omicron variant.”
The government announced new Covid restrictions this week, which will see mandatory vaccine passports and face masks in most indoor public settings.
People have also been told to work from home where they can.
The measures will come to a House of Commons vote where they are expected to pass, despite the now 66 Tory MPs who have said they will vote against it.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC that he would not “play politics” with public health measures.