Some Omicron cases are reportedly experiencing “mild” symptoms and experts should have more information about the transmission of the new COVID variant within days, an epidemiologist at the World Health Organisation has said.
Maria van Kerkhove said one of the possible scenarios is that Omicron may become more transmissible than Delta but experts don’t yet know about its severity.
It comes as a key group of UK scientists have warned Omicron could trigger a surge in COVID infections bigger than previous waves in the country with a risk it may overwhelm the NHS.
Experts on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), which advises the government, held an extraordinary meeting last week to consider the new COVID variant, known scientifically as B.1.1.529, following its detection in South Africa.
According to a note of their meeting, which was observed by both a key Department of Health official and England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam, the group concluded the introduction of Omicron to the UK “might have very serious consequences”.
Nine more cases of Omicron have been detected in England, taking the total to 22, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
The people who have tested positive and their contacts are all isolating. Work is taking place to identify any links to travel to southern Africa.
Cases have now been identified in the East Midlands, East of England, London, South East and North West.
A further case has been detected in Scotland, bringing the total to 10.