Professor Calum Semple, a SAGE adviser, has stated that the new Omicron variant is “not a disaster”, although the WHO has labelled it as a ‘variant of concern’. Semple claims that many, including his own colleagues, are “hugely overstating the situation” and how dangerous the variant is, as they are ignoring that “immunity from the vaccination” can still, most likely, protect members of the public “from severe disease”. MailOnline has the story.
Last night the World Health Organisation branded the so-called Omicron mutation a ‘variant of concern’ as countries including Britain and the U.S. moved to shut their borders to six countries from southern Africa, the area of suspected origin.
The variant’s sudden appearance this week sparked panic in Whitehall circles, with Downing Street’s scientists warning that it could be vaccine-resistant and Health Secretary Sajid Javid threatening to reimpose lockdown if necessary.
In a rush to limit the spread, the E.U. suspended all flights to southern Africa after the first case was confirmed in Europe. Britain had already put six nations on the travel ‘red list’ and was poised to add two more last night.
But microbiologist Professor Calum Semple today urged calm, insisting that vaccines are “still likely to protect you from severe disease”.
The SAGE adviser told BBC Breakfast that he supported new travel restrictions on South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe, but added: “This is not a disaster, and the headlines from some of my colleagues saying ‘this is horrendous’ I think are hugely overstating the situation.”
“Immunity from the vaccination is still likely to protect you from severe disease.
“You might get a snuffle or a headache or a filthy cold but your chance of coming into hospital or intensive care or sadly dying are greatly diminished by the vaccine and still will be going into the future.”
Semple said that while it may not be possible to stop the variant coming to the U.K., it is still important to delay its arrival.
“If you can slow the virus coming into your country it gives you more time for your booster campaign to get ahead of it,” he went on. “It also gives the scientists longer to understand more about the virus in case there is anything we really should be worrying about.”
Asked what other measures he thought were advisable, Semple said he was in favour of compulsory facemasks in shops and on public transport, and handwashing.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said “it is extremely unlikely that a reboot of a pandemic in a vaccinated population like we saw last year is going to happen”. Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, he also insisted that vaccines could be effective at preventing serious disease from the Omicron variant.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Two cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the U.K., according to BBC News.
Sajid Javid said the UK Health Security Agency had detected cases in Chelmsford, Essex, and in Nottingham.
He said the cases were linked to travel in southern Africa and they and their households were self-isolating as more tests and contact tracing take place.
The new variant has also been identified in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be holding a press conference at Downing Street later with the chief scientific advisor to the government, Sir Patrick Vallance, and the chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty.