THESE maps reveal how prevalent Omicron is where you live, and the 226 areas where Covid case rates are increasing.
The Omicron variant now makes up 34 per cent of cases across England and is driving a tidal wave of infections, with the highest ever Covid cases reported yesterday.
Of the 377 local areas in the UK, 226 (60 per cent) have seen a week-on-week rise in rates, 149 (40 per cent) have seen a fall and two are unchanged.
South Northamptonshire has the highest rate in the UK, with 917 new cases per 100,000 people per week.
Reigate and Banstead in Surrey is second, with 891 case per 100,000, while Orkney Islands, Scotland, is at the bottom, with 103.
But the five areas with the largest week-on-week rises are all in London, with Southwark top, seeing an increase from 463 to 818 per 100,000.
The other areas are Lambeth, Hackney, Islington and Lewisham.
The UK Health and Security Agency is able to give an estimate of Omicron Covid cases based on a signal in positive test swabs.
If a test shows something called the S gene target failure (SGTF), it signals the likely presence of Omicron. The Delta variant does not cause this marker.
There have been almost 25,000 cases of Omicron so far, based on SGTF.
UKHSA are able to estimate that in London, 60 per cent of Covid cases are Omicron.
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It means the strain has overtaken the previously-dominant Delta variant in a space of a month or so.
With the second highest proportion is the East of England (36.5 per cent), followed by the South East (34.3 per cent), and the North West (29.2 per cent).
The North East has the lowest level of Omicron (13.1 per cent), while the East Midlands has 26.6 per cent, the South West and West Midlands 22.2 per cent, and Yorkshire 17.5 per cent.
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The UKHSA say there are a total of 10,000 confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK, based only on genetically sequencing some positive cases.
Omicron has grown most suddenly in London, which has seen the sharpest spike in case rates of all regions.
The ZOE Covid Symptom Study app, which tracks the outbreak using app users, also estimates Omicron prevalence in England.
It also finds that 60.3 per cent of people in London are getting the Omicron variant of Covid.
The ZOE app was, for the first time, able to reveal what the most common symptoms of Omicron were in those who reported having the strain.
- runny nose
- fatigue (either mild or severe)
- sore throat
Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study app, said: “Omicron is set to be the dominant strain in the UK by Christmas, and in the New Year cases could hit a peak higher than anything we’ve ever seen before.
“In London cases have been rising rapidly, but this will likely slow down soon, as people change their behaviour, such as wearing face masks again, cancelling parties and working from home more.
“Hopefully people now recognise the cold-like symptoms which appear to be the predominant feature of Omicron.”
It is not clear why the Omicron variant appears to spread quicker, but a study last night suggests it may be because it multiplies 70 times faster than Delta in human airways.
Scientists at the University of Hong Kong said, however, that it replicated 10 times slower in the lungs, which may prevent severe disease.
The UK’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid has previously said that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant, making it able to spread faster.
It comes after a gloomy No10 briefing last night, following the record-high recorded Covid cases (78,610).
England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty said more records will be broken in the next few weeks, and Omicron was “moving at an absolutely phenomenal pace”.
He said it will only be a short time until we get to “very large numbers”, adding he thought the variant was a “very serious threat”.
Even though data from South Africa has suggested Omicron is more mild, and therefore hospitalisations are lower, Prof Whitty warned it may not be the same in the UK.
The top doctor said “all the things that we do know (about Omicron) are bad”.
Earlier, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief executive Dr Jenny Harries warned the strain is “probably the most significant threat” since the start of the pandemic.
With Christmas just over a week away, some scientists are trying to bounce Boris Johnson into imposing a 10-day circuit breaker lockdown to halt the spread of Omicron.
Independent Sage, a panel of experts outside the government's official advisory body, is demanding pubs and restaurants close for inside service.
The group also wants to ban indoor mixing and let parents take kids out of schools without fear of being fined.
Mr Johnson has refrained from telling people to stop enjoying their festivities, saying “we're not closing hospitality, we're not cancelling people's parties or their ability to mix”.
He said people should instead “be careful before they go” – meaning to take a lateral flow test at home.
However, Prof Whitty has told people to consider cutting back socialising around Christmas due to the threat from the Omicron variant.
Prof Whitty told the public “don’t mix with people you don’t have to” at events that are not among the most important to them.
“I really think people should be prioritising those things – and only those things – that really matter to them,” he told a Downing Street press conference.
“Because otherwise the risk of someone getting infected at something that doesn’t really matter to them and then not being able to do the things that matter to them obviously goes up.”
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, who advises the Government on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said it is possible that a million people could be isolating with Covid infections on Christmas Day.
The Cambridge University academic told BBC Newsnight: “I haven’t seen the sums behind it, it sounds like it is in fact possible.
“It depends on whether people get tested, because more than half of people who are infected don’t go on and get tested. But we do know there is going to be huge disruption.”
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