Omicron variant latest: More than 100 cases of new Covid mutation now in London, Sadiq Khan reveals
But Sadiq Khan says it’s just the “tip of the iceberg” as not all positive tests have had their genomics sequenced against the new variant.
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The Government stopped announcing the locations of Omicron cases by local authority at the end of last week, however before that the variant had been identified in Westminster, Barnet, Camden, Lewisham, Bexley, Haringey, Newham, Sutton, Wandsworth and Lambeth.
“More people have Covid today than this time last year but thankfully there are fewer people in hospital and fewer people on ventilators than this time last year,” he said.
“The big concern we have is normally the hospital admissions are about two weeks behind people being tested positive, so although we have had room now in the NHS at our hospitals, the concern is there could be an exponential growth in this variant.
“That’s why it’s so important for the government to provide clarity in relation to any rule changes and that’s why I’m so worried that the public seeing the rule maker, the prime minister being a rule breaker, may lead to fewer people following the rule changes.”
From Wednesday, the NHS Covid Pass will also be required for visitors to nightclubs, indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people.
Last week, it was also made compulsory for people in England to wear masks in shops and on public transport, news that the Mayor welcomes.
“I welcome the change of heart from the government last week so we can now use the police and British Transport police to enforce face masks again on public transport,” Mr Khan continued.
“That means they can issue fines, there have been hundreds of fines issued since last week but also the good news is that compliance has gone up so before the rule changes last week we had fewer people wearing face masks.
“The good news is now more people are wearing face masks and I would encourage all Londoners, when you can’t keep your social distance when you’re indoors wear a face mask because this reduces the chances of you passing the transmission if you’ve got it.
“One out of three people who’ve got the virus don’t show symptoms so the most unselfish thing you can do is wear a face mask indoors.”
What is the Omicron variant?
The variant has multiple mutations to its spike protein, which is found on the virus’s surface.
The spike protein plays a role in infecting cells and there are currently concerns that the mutations could make it harder for people’s immune systems to fight off the variant.
There is currently an extremely high level of uncertainty about the significance of the Omicron variant and scientists do not yet know what its impact will be.
However the preliminary lab tests of the new variant in South Africa suggest the variant can partially evade the Pfizer vaccine.
It is thought that booster jabs dramatically improve people’s protection against Omicron.
What are the symptoms?
- Body aches and pains
- Scratchy throat
- Runny nose