Scientists are still trying to figure out the version, but early clinical evidence suggests it may be less lethal.
While the chief medical officer stated it is still too early to say it is more serious than the current prevalent strain, he affirmed it now appears to be.
‘I'm going to make an assumption that I think is safe now that Omicron is not more harmful than Delta,' he told a select committee.
It may be milder or the same. We dunno.
Doctors in South Africa, where the variation first emerged, have stated that hospitalisations have been lower than predicted.
But UK specialists are wary of approving that analysis without more proof.
Following a surge in cases, Omicron is set to become the dominant strain in the UK.
Yesterday's spike of over 78,000 new infections was the largest daily increase since the pandemic began.
The Omicron version of Covid-19 has been confirmed in 15 persons in hospital, with one fatality.
‘We released numbers yesterday of 15.' Dr Susan Hopkins told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee. But we are constantly improving data integration and will release new numbers this afternoon.'
‘But the real figure will be substantially higher,' said Prof Whitty. To be clear, that is the established figure.'
Even if Omicron is less hazardous than Delta, the sheer number of cases could overburden the NHS this winter.
Prof Whitty predicts this winter's infection peak to be harsher and fall faster than previous Covid-19 peaks.
I believe we will see – and I believe we are seeing in South Africa – a really rapid rebound, even if people are more cautious.
‘That will help, but it will still be quite quick.
‘It'll probably peak very quickly. I expect it to fall faster than prior peaks, but I can't say for sure.
‘I'm merely stating a possibility.'