JUST a 'whiff of infected breath' is all that it takes to catch Omicron, an expert has warned today.
While it might be easier to catch the bug, scientists say that those who get it will suffer with a milder illness in comparison to other variants.
Omicron is now responsible for 90 per cent of cases in the UK and has taken over from the Delta variant.
It comes as a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.
Professor Peter Openshaw, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) today said that Brits are lucky that coronavirus wasn't this infectious when cases started to climb at the start of the pandemic in 2020.
He told BBC Breakfast: "Omicron is so infectious.
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"We're lucky really that it wasn't this infectious when it first moved into human-to-human transmission.
"We've had several iterations of this virus going through different stages of its evolution.
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"It has ended up being so infectious that it almost needs just a whiff of infected breath and you could get infected.
"We're in a relatively good position in countries like the UK but I think you have to remember that in many parts of the world the vaccination rates are only about 5 per cent, and they're being exposed to this very infectious virus with very little protection."
A further 19,544 cases of the Omicron variant we reported in the UK yesterday, with the increase in infections bringing the total to 229,666.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will no longer report Omicron cases separately, due to the large number of cases.
Infections in general reached a record high yesterday – with 189,213 new positive tests being reported.
However, the record-breaking figures seen on Thursday include a backlog of cases from before December 25.
Despite a rise in cases and experts warning that Omicron is more infectious, medics have said that the spread of the strain is actually slowing.
Data from the ZOE Symptom Tracker app showed that infections are slowing in the 0-55 age groups.
Dr Claire Steves, scientist on the ZOE Covid Study app and reader at King’s College London said: “The number of daily new symptomatic Covid cases are more than double what they were this time last year and we are just a day or two away from hitting over 200,000.
"However, the exponential growth in cases appears to have stopped, and the rise is more steady.
"Hospitalisation rates are thankfully much lower than this time last year, but they are still high, especially in London.
"The ZOE data is showing that cases are still on the rise in 55-75 year olds so unfortunately it’s likely that this will translate into more hospital admissions in the New Year."
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