What is Omicron?

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What is the Omicron variant?

In November 2021, a new variant of coronavirus was detected in South Africa and was named Omicron. The Omicron variant has a few different mutations, which means that it behaves differently from other variants we have seen. Researchers worldwide are still working to find out more about the variant.

New developments in the pandemic can feel scary and overwhelming, but before you start googling “what is Omicron?” on repeat, know that we’re here to support you. You can get in touch with our team here. You can also visit our coronavirus page to find support and information on all things related to the pandemic.

What do we know about Omicron?

New discoveries are being made all the time, so we still don’t know everything there is to know about the Omicron variant, but here’s a summary of what we do know.

How quickly is it spreading?

Omicron is spreading faster than the Delta variant, with a speed comparable to the spread of the original virus in early 2020, before most of us were vaccinated. There are over 10,000 cases in South Africa and scientists are estimating that there are roughly 2,500 cases per day in the UK.

This is an early calculation, but it suggests that cases of Omicron could be doubling approximately every two to three days in the UK. It was reported on 15th December, 2021 that the UK has had the highest number of daily coronavirus cases to date, with 78,610 new coronavirus cases confirmed.*

How dangerous is Omicron?

It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants. There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.* All variants can put you at risk of being very ill however, so it’s important to follow the government guidelines to stay safe, and get your booster jab when it’s available to your age group.

Will the vaccine protect me from Omicron?

We don’t yet have all the information on this, however there’s early evidence to suggest that two doses of the vaccine offers slightly less protection against Omicron than against other variants. The good news is that experiments have shown that the booster jab massively boosts levels of neutralising antibodies, which fight against the virus, so there is hope that a third dose of the vaccine may offer good protection against Omicron.*

How can I stay safe from Omicron?

It’s really important that you get your booster jab to keep yourself and others safe. There is a huge national effort to get every adult vaccinated by the end of December, 2021.

As with the other variants of coronavirus, it’s important to keep washing your hands, wearing masks in crowded spaces and get tested regularly.

The government has advised that we prioritise only the most important social gatherings. It’s also important to take tests before spending time with loved ones who might be more vulnerable and to meet in areas of good ventilation or outdoors if possible.

What are the Plan B measures?

The UK government has brought in Plan B measures to try and prevent the Omicron variant from spreading further. People are being asked to stick to the following rules:

  • Face masks will be required in more public settings – including theatres and cinemas
  • People will be asked to work from home where possible
  • The NHS Covid Pass (proof that you have had your first two vaccinations) 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

What is a booster jab?

A coronavirus (COVID-19) booster vaccine will help improve the immunity you have from your first and second vaccinations. This third dose of the vaccine will help give you longer-term protection against serious illness from coronavirus.

Read this article to have your questions about the COVID-19 vaccinations answered by an expert.

Who can get a booster jab?

Anyone over the age of 18 is now eligible to get their booster jab. You can go to a walk-in vaccination centre or you can book online via the NHS website.

Here is a breakdown of those who can now get their booster jab:

  • Those who are 18 years old or over
  • Those who are 16 or over with a health condition that puts you at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
  • Frontline health or social care workers
  • Those who work or live in a care home
  • Those who are 16 or over and are a main carer for someone at high risk from COVID-19
  • Those who are 16 or over and live with someone who has a weakened immune system (such as someone who has HIV, for example)

People who are pregnant and in one of the eligible groups can also get a booster dose.

If you are feeling worried about the pandemic, read this article on how to cope with corona-anxiety.

*Information/numbers/statistics correct at time of writing, but are likely to change over the coming weeks.

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Updated on 15-Dec-2021

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