Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / World / Europe

Signs variant will dominate 'within weeks'

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-12-07 10:58
Share - WeChat
People travel past The London Eye on a sightseeing boat on the River Thames as tourism returns to central London, on Aug 19, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Expert warns Omicron strain could soon outcompete Delta within the UK

The massively mutated Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, which the World Health Organization only named on Nov 26, could be the United Kingdom's dominant strain in weeks, an infectious diseases expert has said.

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, said on the BBC's Breakfast program on Monday the variant was already "spreading rather more quickly than the Delta variant" in some parts of the world.

"How it's likely to spread in the UK is still uncertain," he said. "But I think the early signs are, it will probably spread quite quickly and probably start outcompeting Delta and become the dominant variant, probably within the next weeks."

Scientists are studying the variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, to see whether suspicions are correct and it is indeed more transmissible. They also want to ascertain whether it is resistant to existing vaccines, whether it causes more serious illness, and whether it is adept at re-infecting people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Initial answers should be known in the coming weeks and ministers have, in the meantime, said people should take extra precautions to avoid infection.

The UK's Health Security Agency had confirmed 246 British cases of Omicron as of Monday morning, but Hunter said there could already be more than 1,000.

And he said the emergence of new variants suggest the virus will not be eradicated but is something we must live with.

"I think this virus is… going to be around forever," he said, while noting rich nations should reduce the risk of troubling variants emerging by ensuring as many people as possible, globally, are vaccinated.

The idea of more harmful variants and pandemics emerging has also been addressed by one of the creators of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Professor Sarah Gilbert said during the 44th Richard Dimbleby Lecture that more funding must be directed toward pandemic preparedness.

"This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods," she said. "The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, hit back on Monday at critics who said his government had done too little, too late to protect people from the Omicron variant.

The Guardian newspaper quoted him as saying the requirement for people wanting to travel to the UK to first test negative for COVID-19 would slow the spread of the variant.

"We were the first country in the world to take decisive measures to tackle Omicron," he said. "We put about 10 countries automatically, immediately, on to the red list and we said that anybody coming from any country in the world would have to quarantine for a couple of days. We're now going further and toughening those measures up, as we see the spread of Omicron around the world."

Johnson added that the UK was "waiting to see exactly how dangerous it is" and would consider other steps, once the impact Omicron has on deaths and hospitalizations is known.

Most Viewed in 24 Hours
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349