Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Chris Whitty is more concerned about Delta than the new Omicron variant

Chris Whitty has said there is still “awful much we do not know” about the new variant and speculation was not helpful (Image: Reuters)

The latest Covid variant may have been dubbed ‘the worst yet’, but Professor Chris Whitty is more concerned about the risk of earlier versions.

While ministers are right to take “precautionary measures”, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer says there is still “an awful lot we do not know” about the latest strain.

The World Health Organization has called the new version of Covid-19 a variant of concern and has officially named it Omicron.

First discovered in Botswana, the tribe has since been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium.

Suspected cases are also being investigated in Germany and the Czech Republic as the continent struggles with a wave of Covid infections.

In an effort to curb the new strain, a number of countries have imposed border restrictions and banned flights to and from South Africa.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15: Chief Medical Officer of England Chris Whitty addresses the media regarding Britain's Covid-19 infection rate and vaccination campaign in the Downing Street Briefing Room on November 15, 2021 in London, England.  The Prime Minister and his advisers called on the British to receive their Covid-19 vaccine boosters when they were eligible.  (Photo by Leon Neal - WPA Pool / Getty Images)

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty has said that the Delta variant is what people should worry about right now (Image: Getty Images)

Meanwhile, drug companies are racing to adapt vaccines to fight Omicron, amid warnings that it is more resistant to antibodies and can spread faster.

Amid ‘great international concern’ over the new variant and the threat it may pose, experts have tried to reassure the public.

Among them is Professor Whitty, who has said he is more concerned about the current wave of infections caused by the Delta variant than the discovery of Omicron.

He said the Delta variant “was without a doubt the most important thing we need to worry about between now and Christmas”.

At a panel discussion organized by the Local Government Association, Professor Whitty said: ‘We have always known that new variants would emerge from time to time … but there is a terrible mass we do not know and I think it probably is not very useful to speculate. ‘

Chris Whitty is more concerned about Delta than the new Omicron variant

Pharmaceutical companies rush to adapt their vaccines to beat the Omicron variant (Picture: Reuters / Getty)

Professor Whitty said his ‘biggest concern’ was whether the public would accept new restrictions in light of a new Covid-19 variant.

He added: ‘If we have to do something more muscular at some point, whether it’s for the current new variant or at a later date, can we still take people with us?’

He admitted that some of the changes the public has had to make have been ‘very devastating’ to society and the economy.

Despite his concerns, however, the chief physician struck a positive note, saying he believed the government would be able to maintain public support for coronavirus measures.

He added: ‘I think the extraordinary thing has been the ability of the British people, with very, very small exceptions, to just accept that there are things we need to do together to protect each other and do things together, including things that have been very devastating to social and economic situations for individuals and families.

“Of course we will avoid having to do them at all, if we can, and to do the minimum necessary, but will we be able to maintain public support? And I think my overall view is, I think we will.

“Assuming you’re clear to people what the logic is, provided they feel we are completely equal to them in terms of all data … but I think that’s always a concern.”

Professor Whitty added that the longer the pandemic lasts, the harder it is to know what the public response will be.

He said: ‘It’s easier to be sure of people’s reaction right at the beginning than it is after people have endured two years of their lives being disrupted.’

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