The Delta variant of COVID-19 remains predominant in England, accounting for over 99 per cent of all coronavirus infections, even as 75 more cases of the new Omicron strain have now been detected, taking the total to 104. A further 16 cases have been identified in Scotland, bringing the total to 29, and with one case from Wales, the UK-wide total stands at 134.
Delta remains the predominant variant in England, accounting for over 99 per cent of all COVID-19 cases. As of November 30, 2021, there are 22 confirmed cases of Omicron (B.1.1.529), identified through sequencing or genotyping in England. None of these cases are known to have been hospitalised or died, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Friday. In its weekly risk assessment, the UKHSA notes that a small amount of community transmission is now feared with Omicron as not all the cases identified are linked to travel.
The assessment categorises the variant first detected in South Africa under a red status, indicating fears of reduced immunity from previous infection and vaccines, after it found that 12 of the 22 known Omicron cases up to November 30 had been fully vaccinated. However, with data still being sought and analysed, the confidence level on its assessment remains marked down as low.
Increased case detection through focused contact tracing has led to more cases of the Omicron variant being identified and confirmed, as we have seen in other countries globally, said Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive. We are continuing to monitor the data closely. Teams nationally and locally are working at pace to identify and trace all close contacts of every Omicron case We have started to see cases where there are no links to travel, suggesting that we have a small amount of community transmission, she said.
The UKHSA said it was carrying out targeted testing at locations where the positive cases were likely to be infectious and urged people to follow the rules around face coverings in indoor spaces and come forward for vaccinations, including the third top-up booster dose which is now being offered to all adults in the UK. The UKHSA update points out that PCR tests are able to distinguish Omicron from other variants, giving a "strong early signal" of UK infections.
The so-called S-gene drop out, which is indicative of Omicron and some other variants, has risen by 141 per cent in the last week which would indicate some level of high transmissibility. Meanwhile, the UK government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said on Friday that Omicron may be more transmissible through the air.
Minutes from its latest meeting say Omicron "might show more airborne transmission" but it also marks this down as "preliminary indications" made with "low confidence" as more data is still required. It comes as the UK had another set of high daily coronavirus infections, with 50,584 cases and 143 COVID deaths recorded on Friday.