By James Gallagher
(BBC) – The UK is facing a substantial wave of Omicron infections in January without further restrictions, scientists say.
The number of deaths from the variant by the end of April could range from 25,000 to 75,000 depending on how well vaccines perform, they said.
But the experts behind the study said there was still uncertainty around the modelling.
In the worst-case scenario tougher restrictions may be needed to stop hospitals being overwhelmed, they said.
The study is by an influential group of disease modellers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) who also advise the government – but it is not a crystal ball. It does not say what will happen with the Omicron variant of coronavirus but gives a range of possible outcomes.
High uptake of the booster dose is likely to mitigate the impact of the Omicron wave, the researchers said.
It came as the UK announced a further 633 new cases of Omicron on Saturday – but the real number is estimated to be much higher.
Even if the variant is milder, as anecdotal accounts from South Africa have suggested, scientists say a large wave will still mean a lot of people ending up in hospital – even if is a small proportion of overall cases.
Dr Nick Davies, one of the researchers, said Omicron was spreading “very fast”, was “quite concerning” and was likely to be the dominant form of the virus in England by the end of the year.
The report says the number of people infected is currently doubling every 2.4 days in England.
That is despite the country having high levels of vaccination and is faster than the original form of the virus spread when nobody had protection.
Dr Davies said: “Based on what we’re seeing we can expect there to be a large wave of Omicron in the UK.”