Return to 'Plan A': England lifts Omicron curbs
Independent TV

Yesterday, the UK's Plan B measures to deal with the spread of coronavirus came to an end meaning masks and Covid passes have been scaled back with work from home guidance also scrapped.

The government have said we must "learn to live with Covid" with health secretary Sajid Javid encouraging people to get vaccinated, saying: “As we learn to live with Covid we need to be clear eyed that this virus is not going away".

With that new context in place, what is happening with coronavirus and in particular Omicron in the UK?

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Here's everything we know:

Cases

Omicron cases have been falling since January but the decline now appears to have plateaued with the daily average of positive cases reported standing at around 90,000 for over a week.

The BBC reports that this is due to more social mixing taking place, particularly in schools and workplaces, and waning immunity from the vaccines. In December, with Plan B in place, school holidays, and people opting to reduce social contact before Christmas, there was less social contact.

Hospitalisations and deaths

However, because the vaccines' protection against serious illness doesn't wane in the same way, high case numbers have not translated to high hospitalisation or death rates seen in other waves in the pandemic, and people infected with Omicron who have received all their vaccinations are more likely to suffer a mild illness.

The BBC reports that the current death rate - a bit below 300 a day - is similar to that seen during a bad flu season.

New sub-variant

But there's also a new kid on the block to contend with. First, we had coronavirus, and that was pretty awful. Then we had numerous variants, causing concern around the world, and now scientists have even found a sub-variant of the Omicron variant of Covid.

The UKHSA said the variant is "under investigation", meaning it is currently one level below "a variant of concern" and they have nicknamed it the "stealth variant" because it doesn't have a spike gene that would make it easier to stand out on PCR tests.

Experts need to gather more data about the variant to be sure but while there are concerns the variant may be more transmissible, health experts have said there is little difference in vaccine effectiveness between it and the other Omicron we've come to know and love (not).

As always, time will tell what happens next with the UK's fight against the virus.

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