The omicron variant of Covid-19 is “probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic”, the head of the UK Health Security Agency Jenny Harries has warned MPs.
Dr Jenny Harries told a parliamentary committee that “quite staggering” numbers of infections can be expected in the coming days due to the highly contagious nature of the new strain.
And she warned that the speed of spread was accelerating, with infections now doubling in less than two days in most parts of the UK, compared to an estimated four or five days when the threat first emerged.
Dr Harries was speaking a day after chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty told Boris Johnson’s cabinet that hospitalisations from omicron can be expected to increase “significantly” over the Christmas period.
With the UKHSA estimating daily infections at 200,000 on Monday this week, Dr Harries’ estimate of a doubling time of less than two days suggests that more than a million Britons a day could be catching the virus by the weekend, with millions infected by Christmas Day.