Gloomy modelling by Neil Ferguson has forecast up to 5,000 Omicron deaths per day this winter unless restrictions are tightened within a fortnight. As usual, the fact that he’s got more or less every previous forecast wrong does not mean he won’t be taken seriously. MailOnline has more.
Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College London found “no evidence” the variant is less severe than Delta but estimate it is five-and-a-half times more likely to re-infect people and make vaccines significantly weaker.
Drawing on data from Omicron’s spread in the UK and South Africa, as well as lab tests on vaccine effectiveness, they concluded: “Omicron poses a major, imminent threat to public health.”
Professor Ferguson – a Government adviser whose modelling has spooked No10 into lockdowns before – said tighter curbs were needed “in a week or two” to have a significant effect on the size of the peak of the new wave.
The latest projections will raise fears that Britons could be stung by last-minute festive restrictions once again, with Boris Johnson repeatedly refusing to rule a full lockdown out if hospitalisations start to surge.
Wales has already announced the return of social distancing and closure of nightclubs from Boxing Day, while Scots are urged to limit mixing to three households and people in England are advised to “prioritise” social events.
In a best case scenario, Imperial said without further curbs there could be in the region of 3,000 daily Omicron deaths at the peak in January – significantly higher than the previous record of 1,800 during the second wave.
Professor Azra Ghani, an epidemiologist at the university and one of the researchers behind the modelling, said it was an “illustration of the need to act”.
Yesterday, Chris Whitty told MPs yesterday that he was “extremely cautious” about SAGE’s modelling of Omicron because there are still some “really critical things we don’t know” about the variant.
SAGE’s models have been criticised several times in the past for overegging the UK’s epidemic, most recently projecting 6,000 daily Delta hospital admissions in October.
Worth reading in full.