Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

?Too late?  to stop the Omicron variant despite travel restrictions, says scientist credit: EPA, REX and AP

A further 86 cases were reported on Sunday, bringing the total to 246 (Image: EPA / Rex / AP)

A scientist advising the government has warned that it is already “too late” to effectively halt the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK – as cases rose by 50% in 24 hours.

A further 86 cases were reported on Sunday, bringing the total to 246. That’s a big jump from Saturday’s total of 160.

On Saturday, it was announced that all travelers arriving in England must take a Covid-19 test before departure from Tuesday – while Nigeria will be added to the government’s red list of trips.

Ministers said the additional test was intended to be a temporary measure following new data showing an increase in the number of cases of the new strain associated with foreign travel.

But Professor Mark Woolhouse, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modeling (Spi-M), who advises the government, said the measures would not make a ‘significant difference’ as the variant is already ‘spreading quite fast’.

He told the BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: ‘I think it could be a case of closing the stable door after the horse is bolted.

‘If Omicron is here in the UK, and it certainly is, if there is Community transmission in the UK, and it certainly looks like that, then it is the Community transmission that will drive the next wave.

‘The cases that are imported are important, we want to detect them and isolate all the positive cases we find, as we would do in all cases everywhere.

‘But I think it’s too late to make a significant difference to the course of the Omicron wave if we are to have one.’

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 01: A person is tested for COVID-19 inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on December 1, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.  The Biden administration plans to announce stricter restrictions for travelers flying to the U.S., including requiring a negative test for COVID-19 one day before travel, in response to the new Omicron variant.  (Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images)

All travelers arriving in the UK must take a Covid-19 test before departure from Tuesday (Photo: Getty)

Shoppers wear masks as they walk down Carnaby Street in London on Saturday, December 4, 2021. The UK says it will offer all adults a booster dose of vaccine within two months to boost the country's immunity as the new omicron variant of coronavirus is spreading.  New measures to combat the variant came into force in England on Tuesday, where face covering is again mandatory in shops and in public transport.  (AP Photo / Alberto Pezzali)

A scientist advising the government said the measures would not make a ‘significant difference’ (Image: AP)

The travel industry reacted angrily after the latest measures were announced, despite ministers insisting they were only ‘temporary’.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News ‘Trevor Phillips On Sunday program:’ I know it’s a burden on the travel industry, but we’re made huge, huge progress in this country.

‘We need to take the measures targeted at forensic medicine to stop the new variant seed in this country in order to create a bigger problem.

“We have taken a balanced approach, but we are always aware of additional risks that lead us backwards and not forwards.”

Prof Woolhouse said that although the number of people with the Omicron variant ‘is still quite small’ and probably remains in the hundreds, ‘they are growing quite fast’.

However, he insisted that vaccinations would still be ‘very, very good’ to protect against the new variant.

A person wearing a protective face mask walks through Covent Garden, in the middle of an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, UK, on ​​December 4, 2021. REUTERS / Henry Nicholls

Prof Woolhouse said the number of people with the Omicron variant ‘is growing quite fast’ (Image: Reuters)

Statistics professor Sir David Spiegelhalter told Sky News ‘Trevor Phillips On Sunday program:’ It’s a very difficult situation because we have not received a lot of data at all yet, almost nothing from this country about what the risks are.

“In South Africa, data is coming out that shows pretty strong evidence that the increased risk of transmission and some evidence that people are going to the hospital, but it may actually be milder, but we do not have enough data yet to be able to say . “

‘It doesn’ t seem like it’s really serious if you get it, I think that’s just about all we can say at the moment. ‘

Asked if measures to combat the spread of Omicron have gone far enough, Professor Sir David added: ‘It is best to be careful when there is so much we do not know … and when we do not know, it is better to be sure than to apologize. ‘

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