(Bloomberg) — The UK should remain cautious until officials know the effects of the new Omicron variant because it is so easy to pass on, the scientist behind the joint Oxford/AstraZeneca UK COVID-19 vaccine will warn.
“The spike protein of this variant contains mutations that are already known to increase the transmissibility of the virus, but there are additional changes that could mean that antibodies induced by the vaccines or by infection with other variants may be less effective.” in preventing infection with Omicron,” Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, warned in a BBC TV talk Monday.
“Until we know more, we need to be careful and take steps to slow the spread of this new variant,” she says, according to the BBC. “But as we’ve seen before, reduced protection against infection and mild disease does not necessarily mean reduced protection against severe disease and death.”
The warning came when Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government said that while people should use common sense in the run-up to seasonal celebrations, parties should not be canceled altogether. However, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said he had scaled back his own office party.
“The government wants people to be able to enjoy Christmas this year,” Raab told Sky News on Sunday. “People should feel free to enjoy those celebrations and every employer will think about the right way to do it and I’m the same as everyone else.”
On Saturday, officials announced that all travelers arriving in England from Tuesday will be required to take a Covid-19 pre-departure test in an effort to control the spread of omicron, which has infected around 250 people in the UK since it was first discovered in the UK. country on November 27. The government also banned travel from southern Africa and increased the number of countries on the red list that require a 10-day quarantine.
Professor Mark Woolhouse, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modeling, which advises the British government, told the BBC on Sunday that the measures would not make a “material difference” because the variant is already “spreading quite quickly”.
“If omicron is here in the UK, and it certainly is, if there is community transmission in the UK, and it certainly looks like this, then it’s that community transmission that will trigger the next wave,” he told the Andrew Marr -program.
Gilbert will also call on governments to continue funding pandemic preparedness, saying there will be viruses in the future that could pose an even greater threat than Covid.
“This won’t be the last time a virus threatens our lives and livelihoods,” she says. “The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more deadly, or both.”