West Midlands Omicron peak due for ‘mid to late January’

The peak in Omicron cases in the West Midlands is expected around the middle to the end of January, health chiefs have said.

Dr Justin Varney, director of public health, and Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward. PIC: Gurdip Thandi LDR
Dr Justin Varney, director of public health, and Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward. PIC: Gurdip Thandi LDR

The news came as it was revealed that Birmingham is still way below the national average for number of people to have had their first, second and booster vaccine jabs.

Speaking at this week’s Local Covid Engagement Board, Dr Justin Varney, director of public health for Birmingham, said that he expects the spread of the Omicron variant to follow the same pattern to the spread of the Delta variant earlier this year.

That means cases will increase in London before spreading to the rest of the country.

It has been confirmed that Omicron is more infectious than any previous variant faced, though how severe it is is not yet known.

Dr Varney was keen to stress the importance of getting jabbed over the next few weeks, with a spike in cases expected following the Christmas holidays.

He said: “When Delta first came, Delta appeared in the South East in London, and then came up the trainline into New Street station and across the Midlands, came from Birmingham and out into the wider region.

“And to some extent I would expect Omicron to do the same. It’s very high at the moment in London, and it’s relatively low at the moment across the Midlands, but starting to rise.

“What I’m also watching quite carefully is in the Delta wave Birmingham did this thing where cases went up, stabilised, went up, stabilised in a step like movement, and I think we’d probably follow that pattern. If we do I would expect, given the mixing at Christmas and the New Year, that we will see a surge in cases around the second week of January, and that will then translate into pressures in health and social care toward the third/fourth week of January.

“So if we can get everyone jabbed over the next two weeks then we will cut off that pressure on health and social care at the end of January. That’s why the race is on now.

“So that’s what I would expect to see, but it is crystal ball gazing.Omicron is a different variant, and it’s way more infectious and it reproduces itself so much faster, which is why people need the booster.

“So I think we’re probably looking at mid to late January is when the peak will come for us.”

The prediction from Dr Varney comes as it is revealed that Birmingham has significantly fewer people vaccinated than the national average.

Figures from the Gov.uk website indicate that 89 per cent of people in England aged 12 years and over have had their first vaccine dose, 81.1 per cent have had their second dose, and 40.8 per cent their booster dose. This compares to 66.1 per cent, 58.5 per cent and 24.9 per cent in Birmingham.

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