Following Boris Johnson’s trials and tribulations that piled on and on last week, the Prime Minister caved in to pressure from the Conservative backbench rebels and confirmed there was not enough evidence to enforce a pre-Christmas Omicron lockdown. Johnson said his government is keeping a constant eye on the data as further measures after Christmas cannot be ruled out, and folks should drop everything to get a booster. The UK is administering boosters at a rate of 1million+ per day and on Wednesday 31 million booster vaccines had been administered.
The data about Omicron was sketchy when all the chatter about a pre-Christmas lockdown was going on, the scientific forecasts were wide-ranging but no probability was attached, without this Ministers couldn’t get an accurate picture of the severity of the disease, they knew it was exponentially transmissible but not a lot beyond that. Now data is available from NICD South Africa and this confirms that the current wave of Covid is extremely transmissible but less severe, there are fewer patients in hospital, fewer patients on ventilators, and fewer deaths compared to July-August this year. The Johnson government’s caution stems from being mindful over the Christmas period not to overwhelm the emergency services, NHS, fire brigade, and police, as the UK reports 100,000 daily cases.
Finally, therapies that can be administered once Covid has infected are being administered by the NHS. GSK’s Xevudy-Sotrovimab is an investigational SARS-CoV-2 neutralising monoclonal antibody; another monoclonal from Roche and Regeneron is Ronapreve which attaches to the ‘spike protein’, this stops the virus from getting into your cells and causing an infection.
Merck Sharp and Dohme’s antiviral Molnupiravir is part of a new nation-wide clinical study named ‘PANORAMIC’, the government has secured 480,000 courses, so far clinical trials have proven to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death for at-risk non-hospitalised adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 by 50%; and following Pfizer’s phase 2 and 3 trials, Ritonavir will be available early next year.
All the panic and paranoia about Omicron will be proved right or wrong when UK actual data is reported over the next two weeks, the signs are already encouraging. Early national data from the University of Edinburgh suggests that Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation when compared to Delta. Imperial College finds evidence of an overall reduction in the risk of hospitalisation for Omicron relative to Delta infections, averaging over all cases in the study period of the first two weeks of December.
The Covid self-isolation period has already been reduced from 10 to 7 days with 2 negative tests. Chancellor Rishi Sunak stepped up to the mark and produced extra support for the hospitality, leisure, and culture sectors affected by the pandemic.
Today Boris Johnson looks less vulnerable than last week, nevertheless, his 80 seat majority is damaged. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who has assumed responsibility for the Brexit-Protocol negotiations between Northern Ireland and the EU (a sink or swim position), Sunak, and Health Secretary Sajid Javid are all en-guard— a French phrase used in the fencing world alerting contestants to take their positions— in this case, should a vacancy at the top emerge.