According to official estimates, the speed at which the Omicron variant is spreading means that four times more people are likely to be isolating with Covid this Christmas than last December 25, when household mixing was banned across much of the country and a third national shutdown was imminent, the report said.
Anyone becoming ill from today onwards will still be in the required ten-day isolation period on Christmas Day.
Yesterday there were more than 4,700 confirmed Omicron cases, and Ministers claim the number is doubling every two days. At this rate, almost 100,000 people will be confirmed with Omicron on Christmas Eve, and around 1 million will be isolating the next day, the report said.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs that even if Omicron turned out to be less severe than the Delta variant, the fact it spreads so easily meant ‘it still has the potential to overwhelm the NHS’.
He told Ministers that modelers believe Omicron cases may already be running at ‘200,000 a day’ and ‘doubling every two to three days’. However, some experts have cast doubt on the figure, which is far higher than the official Covid total and which is based on disputed mathematical modelling. Downing Street insisted the projection was ‘valid’, the report said.
Prof Whitty also warned Ministers that astronomical infection rates will spark staff shortages in pubs, restaurants and shops.