The new Omicron variant of coronavirus appears to be causing “milder” cold-like symptoms, but the reported higher rate of transmission could still have “devastating” consequences, a top scientist has warned.
According to the Zoe Covid Study incidence figures, there are currently 83,658 new daily symptomatic cases of Covid-19 in the UK on average, based on test data from up to five days ago.
This represents a small increase of 4% from 80,483 new daily cases last week.
The UK Government estimates that around 3% of these are likely to be Omicron.
The study estimates that, in the vaccinated population (at least two doses), there are currently 25,411 new daily symptomatic cases.
Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and lead scientist on the Zoe study, said: “Even with Omicron appearing to be more transmissible than Delta, early signs, including new reports from Zoe users, show that it is breaking through in vaccinated people, but it’s causing milder cold-like symptoms.
“However, this is not a reason to be relaxed about Omicron.
“Covid is unpredictable and, even if most only feel like they’ve got a cold, there are far more long-term risks than a cold carries.
“If numbers skyrocket, it doesn’t matter if the percentage of people being hospitalised or dying remain low – it’s about volume, not percentages.
“The higher rate of transmission even in the vaccinated could have devastating consequences, and hundreds of people continue to die every week as we head into our second Christmas of this pandemic.”
Prof Spector added that he is glad the Government has finally implemented Plan B, but it is “too little too late” and “many will suffer hardships this Christmas as a result”.
“Unless we see major behavioural change as a result, I expect that Covid rates will climb higher than ever in 2022,” he said.
The Zoe study incidence figures are based on reports from around 650,000 weekly contributors.
It has now introduced a new feature into the app that allows people to share their Omicron experiences and symptoms.