Covid Omicron variant could need 'very stringent' rules, leaked SAGE minutes warn

The BBC has obtained minutes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) – which warn there could be sharp consequences if there is a major vaccine escape

A police officer wears a face mask as he stands on the concourse at Waterloo Station in London
A police officer wears a face mask as he stands on the concourse at Waterloo Station in London

The Covid Omicron variant could need “very stringent response measures” if it threatens the NHS, leaked SAGE minutes warn.

Notes from a meeting on Monday, obtained by the BBC, say it is “highly likely” that the multiple-mutated strain can resist vaccine immunity “to some extent”, like the Delta variant does.

The notes add: “Any significant reduction in protection against infection could still result in a very large wave of infections.

“This would in turn lead to a potentially high number of hospitalisations even with protection against severe disease being less affected.” It comes after Boris Johnson last night insisted a Christmas lockdown was “extremely unlikely”.

Scientists simply do not know at the moment whether Omicron – 22 cases of which have been found in the UK so far – is resistant to vaccines.

S1 to S3 pupils attend Rosshall Academy as all pupils in Scotland return in March


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Face mask laws and mandatory 10-day isolation for close contacts of suspected Omicron cases have been introduced for three weeks – and could be extended beyond December 20 – while scientists work out the risk.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid today said people “maybe” want to take a lateral flow test before going to Christmas parties.

But he rejected comments of government advisor Dr Jenny Harries who suggested people may want to cut down on socialising. Mr Javid agreed with Boris Johnson, saying there is no need to cancel plans.

And Mr Javid claimed the restrictions “might” be reviewed earlier than the planned three-week review date on December 20.

“We are confident that actually maybe within two weeks we will know a lot more about this. We may not even need to wait three weeks,” he said.

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The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) notes said the size of any future wave remains “highly uncertain”, according to the BBC.

But the scientists added it may be of a scale that requires “very stringent response measures” to avoid unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

They went on: “It is important to be prepared for a potentially very significant wave of infections with associated hospitalisations now, ahead of data being available…

“The situation could develop quickly over the coming weeks and decision makers may need to act while there is a high level of uncertainty including the potential need for stringent response measures.”

The minutes obtained by the BBC have not been seen or verified by the Mirror. However, SAGE minutes are published regularly by the government including on most Fridays.

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