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Covid Christmas boost as WHO rules out need for lockdown: 'Don't be blinded'

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WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke at press conference in Geneva today where he said that more lockdowns are not necessary, despite concerns that the Omicron variant could have “severe consequences”. He said that much of the developed world has seen successful vaccination programmes that have saved many lives, helping to “quell the pandemic”. Instead of lockdowns, Mr Ghebreyesus called for a continuing to roll out vaccines and using lockdowns only as a “last resort”.

But he warned that this rollout needs to be seen across the globe, and not just the developed world.

He said: “In too many countries, the bright light of vaccines has also become a blinding light for the continued need to stop this virus from spreading.”

“Vaccines save lives, but they do not fully prevent infection or transmission. 

“Until we reach high levels of vaccination in every country, suppressing transmission remains essential.

“We don’t mean lockdowns, which are a last resort in the most extreme circumstances.

“We mean a tailored and comprehensive package of measure that strikes a balance between protecting the rights, freedoms and livelihoods of individuals while protecting the health and safety of the most vulnerable members of communities.” 

 

It comes after cases of the Omicron variant, the new strain of COVID-19, were found in the UK after it was first identified in South Africa on November 9.

The WHO warned that there was preliminary evidence that this “variant of concern” could pose a greater risk to people who could fall ill with Covid for a second time. 

It has also been suggested that Omicron is more transmissible than other strains of the virus. 

There have so far been nine cases reported in the UK, with three cases reported in England and six in Scotland.

 

Scotland’s health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “This will be a worrying time for the six people now identified as having the new variant.

“All will receive expert help and support and Public Health Scotland will undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases.

“This will help establish the origin of the virus and any further individuals they have come into contact with in recent weeks.”

And while the strain is reported to have originated in South Africa, some of the cases in Britain are thought to have no known travel history, which suggests they could have been transmitted within the country.

Contact tracing and targeted testing at locations where these individuals were thought to have been infectious is now underway so further contacts and cases can be detected.

And all positive cases will undergo further genome sequencing to identify whether or not they are infected with the Omicron variant.

Experts are concerned about the Omicron variant as it has a large number of mutations compared with previous variants.

More than 30 of those are in the spike protein, which is the key used by the virus to enter our body’s cells.

Because of this big change, alarms have been raised that the antibodies from previous infections or vaccination may no longer be well matched.

But they have reassured that it is likely that some residual immunity, like from T-cells, will remain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that face coverings will become mandatory in shops and on public transport in England again as part of measures to control the spread of the new variant.

PCR tests for everyone entering the UK will also be introduced.

But Mr Johnson said these measures are “temporary and precautionary”. 



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