LOCKDOWN will stop the Omicron wave, Sage says – but it may already be too late.
Brits may be facing longer-lasting restrictions if draconian measures are delayed by ministers, the experts claim.
But in a double blow, the panel say even if measures are taken swifly, it is not clear if this would work to hold back the fast-spreading strain.
In a draft of papers published today, the true threat of Omicron is laid out by the government scientific advisory group.
It comes as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson mulls over their modelling to decide whether to plunge Brits into more misery by shutting the country down.
Mr Johnson has said there currently isn't enough data to justify fresh curbs just before Christmas, but that he is reviewing the situation "hour by hour".
Minutes from Sage warn that if the PM acts too late, restrictions will have to go on for longer, and NHS care will be compromised.
The group compared modelling from various groups, admitting there were a number of uncertainties, including how severe illness from Omicron is and the impact of booster jabs.
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It said: “Even a short intervention could reduce both peak and total admissions, particularly if introduced early enough.
“The main benefit of a short intervention would be in flattening the peak of admissions, and to allow more people to receive boosters.
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“If measures are implemented later, when hospital admissions have risen significantly, measures may need to be in place for longer and may be too late to avert a period with very high admissions.”
A statement by the chairs of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group of Sage said the wave may grow so fast that even a short intervention might not work.
It said: “It is also possible, however, that the coming wave will grow so fast that a short intervention cannot keep admissions and occupancy below a tolerable threshold.
“In these circumstances, enacting an intervention early would give time to detect whether such an intervention is insufficient to avoid a compromise of quality of care and adjust accordingly.
“If measures are implemented only later, ‘in an emergency’, when hospitals are already struggling, the measures would need to be in place for longer and might be too late to associated compromises in the quality of care.”
There are promising datasets on Omicron emerging every day, including that in hard-hits part of South Africa, the outbreak appears to be fizzling.
Two bombshell studies published yesterday added to evidence that Omicron causes more mild disease, and therefore should cause less hospitalisations.
But Sage says the UK may not follow the same pattern as South Africa, which has a different population.
A milder disease won’t make a difference if infections reach astronomical levels, either.
Sage said: “A large wave of hospitalisations would be likely to follow a large wave of infections, even if there were a reduction in intrinsic severity.”
On top of this, hospitalisations could rise if the vaccines are weakened to such an extent that older people get infected at concerning levels.
The booster vaccine, taken up by more than 90 per cent of older people, is the best possible protection against Omicron.
But it is not as strong at preventing hospitalisations (80 per cent) against the variant as it was against Delta (high 90s).
This would have a minimal impact on an individual – who would still have very high protection – but implications on a population level.
A booster jab is the best Christmas gift you can give your family, Mr Johnson told The Sun last night.
The Sun is also urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to keep the rollout moving at pace.
The PM said families can enjoy their Christmases together this year.
But eager to know what will happen next, Brits are crying out for clarity about New Years Eve plans.
Already people living in Wales and Scotland have been told there will be new bans on mixing indoors after Christmas, leaving those in England fearing the worst.
It is understood that ministers are not expecting to make any further decisions on new restrictions until Monday 27 December at the earliest.
This means if the Government decides to tighten the rules, they would not come in before 29 December as it will take at least two days for Parliament to be recalled and to approve the measures before they can take effect, according to inews.
It comes as new data shows Omicron has sparked a record number of weekly infections – around 1.4million Brits came down with Covid last week – the highest weekly number since records began.
Sarah Crofts, Head of Analytical Outputs for the ONS Covid-19 Infection Survey said: “Our latest results show infections in England increased in the week to 16 December, with around one in 45 people infected.
"Scotland also saw an increase with around one in 70 people infected and infections remain high in Northern Ireland and Wales, though the trend is uncertain in both."
Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive said: “Once again, we urge everyone who is able to get a booster jab to come forward and do so. It is the best defence we have against this highly transmissible new variant."
The Sun is also urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to make the rollout as smooth and fast as possible.
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