Omicron could replace Delta variant, warns British scientist
- Omicron could replace the Delta variant if current trends in the UK and South Africa persist
- UK has so far reported 246 cases of Omicron COVID variant
- Travelers arriving in England will now need to take a COVID-19 test
Omicron could replace the Delta variant as the dominant strain of coronavirus if current trends in the UK and South Africa persist in the coming weeks and months, according to a British scientist. Professor Mark Woolhouse, a member of the government's Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), also termed the latest travel rule changes as "too late" to make a "material difference" to a potential wave of the Omicron variant in the UK. Britain's government Saturday said all travelers arriving in England will need to take a COVID-19 test before they board their flight. Woolhouse said the tightened travel restrictions were "a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted."
He told the BBC that while imported cases of the Omicron variant were "important", community transmission would be the driver of a next wave.
He added the actual numbers of UK Omicron cases could be "more in the hundreds than the thousands" as the variant was "spreading pretty rapidly" in the UK, and if current trends in the country and in South Africa continued in the coming weeks and months, it could even replace the Delta variant around the world.
Experts have warned that UK's National Health Service (NHS) would be in a "very, very difficult position" if the new variant led to a surge in hospital admissions.
UK Health Security Agency reported on Sunday a further 86 cases of the Omicron variant across the UK taking the total so far to 246.
Ten southern African countries had already been added to the UK's travel red list, because of fears about Omicron. These include South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. Nigeria will also be added to the list from Monday, which means UK or Irish nationals, or UK residents returning from the country must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.