Virus expert says Omicron is 'unstoppable' and backs 'Plan B' rules

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school reacts to government's move to Covid-19 'Plan B' restrictions. - Credit: Archant 2013

UEA virus expert Paul Hunter says the new Covid-19 restrictions under ‘Plan B’ is “the least the government could do” as the new Omicron variant continues to rapidly spread across the UK.  

Reacting to the Downing Street press conference where Boris Johnson confirmed the move to ‘Plan B’, Prof Hunter said “we haven’t got a hope in controlling the spread”. 

As part of the new measures, the Prime Minister urged people to work from home as of Monday.  

Vaccine passports will also be introduce at nightclubs and venues with more than 500 people and face coverings would be “further extended” to “most public indoor venues” including theatres and cinemas. 

But looking at its current rate of infection, Prof Hunter, from the university's School of Medicine, said it’s “unlikely” that even the “strictest restrictions” would be enough to control the variant. 

He said: “That doesn't mean to say that the new measures won't have any value, they will reduce the rate of spread but ultimately, they won't stop it and I don’t think it is stoppable.  

“People who have had vaccine and had Covid-19, will probably be in a really good position - with quite robust immunity 

“The uncertainty at the moment, is whether the booster will give that same degree of immunity." 

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. - Credit: Archant © 2013

Most Read

He continued: “This variant is just so much more infectious. I'm at a loss. I don’t know the best way forward on this. It’s going to be really challenging for the next six weeks or so.” 

The tighter rules – which include wearing masks and showing proof of vaccines - are set to affect Norfolk’s businesses in the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors. 

Vaccine passports will be mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the Downing Street press conference confirming the move to 'Plan B'.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a Downing Street press conference confirming the move to 'Plan B'. - Credit: BBC News

This includes unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.

But Mr Johnson said a negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient. 

Rules around increased use of facemasks will come into place as of Friday, December 10 and will be required in most indoor venues like cinemas and theatres from Friday.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID).

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID). - Credit: Sonya Duncan

But Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), said he hopes it will not deter people from coming into the city and urged people to continue to support local businesses - at the most important time of the year for trading. 

He added: “From a business perspective, most are already compliant. If you look at leisure, retail and hospitality, there isn’t much change for them.  

“The city will remain open and trading. 

“All our advice would be is for people to follow the guidance and to wear masks. But it’s important to state that this is not another lockdown. The only real change is working from home, when possible. 

“It’s really important that people still come out to support the local businesses – that is going to be key for the business community. If they have a weak Christmas, it will be a real struggle for them.” 

As of December 6, only one Omicron case had been reported in Norfolk and test and tracing of that individual, in north Norfolk, found no evidence the virus has spread to others. 

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Responding to Plan B rules, Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor said: "I fully support the need to be clear that the spread of the Omicron variant requires us to take precautions to stem its spread. 

“We should keep following the protect yourself, protect others, protect Norfolk messages - wash your hands regularly, keep your distance and wear face coverings. And where the Government advises you to, keep rooms ventilated and work from home if you can. 

"And it is essential that everyone should get vaccinated. It’s shown that this is a protection against Covid and its effects

“If we do all this, we can hopefully have a better Christmas than last year." 



Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter