The National Institute For Communicable Diseases reported another 6,381 cases in the last 24 hours, up 180 per cent on the figure last Monday.
This was down on yesterday’s figure of 11,000, but tens of thousands of fewer tests were carried out.
Meanwhile, hospital admissions have doubled to 175 and Covid deaths have dropped slightly.
It comes as experts today warned the new super strain driving the latest wave could become dominant in the UK in a matter of weeks.
It is unclear what impact the strain will have on severe illness, hospitalisations and deaths, but experts fear its extensive mutations will enable it to dodge protection from two doses of Covid jabs and previous infections.
Doctors on the ground are so far reporting that cases have been mild.
But experts warn the variant spreading among younger age groups and the lag between catching the virus and becoming seriously unwell could be masking the severity of the new strain.
South Africa’s cases have skyrocketed since Omicron was first discovered. Last month, the country recorded 358 daily cases, compared to the 6,381 registered today. The daily figure is the lowest since Tuesday, but is due to low testing rates over the weekend, with just 24,159 people swabbed yesterday. The positivity rate — the proportion of all tests conducted that are confirmed Covid cases — rose to a record 26.4 per cent
Some 175 South Africans were hospitalised with the virus, up 121.5 per cent on the 79 people admitted to hospital last Monday. The number of patients in hospital with the virus is at 3,517, up 51.1 per cent in a week. Pictured: graph shows weekly Covid hospitalisations
Christmas hopes boosted as study suggests ‘70% of Omicron has NOT mutated to evade vaccines or natural immunity’
The promising research found that while the new strain has more than triple the micro-mutations as Delta, there are still large swathes of the virus that remain vulnerable immune system.
Italian researchers ran Omicron’s unprecedented number of spike protein alterations through a mathematical model to gauge how well the virus will be recognised by the body.
They found that about 70 per cent of the spike had not evolved to evade vaccines or natural immunity and in theory will still be targeted by the immune system of a vaccinated or recently-infected person.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency and key No10 advisor, said the finding signalled a ‘glass half full’ scenario, with the variant unlikely to make jabs redundant like previously feared.
But the immunologist expressed some concern that Omicron has three times more alterations to parts of the virus that are targeted by antibodies and T cells, known as epitopes, compared to any other variant.
South Africa’s cases have skyrocketed since Omicron was first discovered.
On November 6, the country recorded 358 cases, compared to the 6,381 registered today.
The daily figure is the lowest since Tuesday, but is due to low testing rates over the weekend, with just 24,159 people swabbed yesterday.
The positivity rate — the proportion of all tests conducted that are confirmed Covid cases — rose to a record 26.4 per cent.
For comparison, the UK’s positivity rate on December 1 was 4.3 per cent — with 1.2million tests conducted and more than 51,000 testing positive.
The vast majority of cases remain concentrated in the Gauteng province, the epicentre of the outbreak, where 4,488 cases were recorded.
KwaZulu-Natal, in the east, recorded 635 cases, while Mpumalanga in the north east, registered 337 infections.
Real-world data suggests the highly-evolved variant is three-and-a-half times more likely to infect people than Delta because of its combination of vaccine resistance, increased infectiousness and antibody escape.
Meanwhile, 175 South Africans were hospitalised with the virus, up 121.5 per cent on the 79 people admitted to hospital last Monday.
The number of patients in hospital with the virus is at 3,517, up 51.1 per cent in a week.
Meanwhile, nine deaths were recorded — a drop of 64 per cent compared to last Monday’s figure.
Doctors in South Africa have insisted that most patients suffer only mild illness, with the US’ top Covid expert Dr Anthony Fauci claiming today it ‘doesn’t look like there’s a great degree of severity to it’.
But British scientists, including the Government’s own, have warned against the narrative that it is a weaker strain, warning that it could put significant pressure on the NHS by virtue of the fact it can infect more people.
One mathematical modeller predicted there could be up to 3,000 hospital admissions per day in the UK in January if Omicron takes off domestically — compared to the 4,000 per day at the peak last year.
It comes as the UK recorded 51,459 new cases in the last 24 hours which was a fifth more than last Monday and the third time in a week that they have breached the 50,000 mark. Another 41 deaths were also registered in a 17 per cent increase compared to a week ago.
Another 290,165 booster jabs were rolled out across the country on Sunday, significantly short of No10’s 500,000-a-day target it set last week to shield against the incoming Omicron wave.
This is the image that has sparked fear among scientists, prompted ministers to turbocharge the UK’s booster vaccine rollout and seen the return of mask mandates in England. It details the new super-mutant Omicron variant’s spike protein mutations which experts fear will make it the most infectious and vaccine-resistant strain yet. The graphic, released by the country’s top variant monitoring team, also lays bare how it is far more evolved than even the world-dominant Delta strain, with nearly five times as many alterations on the spike
In total, there are 46,000 Covid cases on average each day in the UK and data from the Covid Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) suggests the new strain is already behind around one in 66 of them, or 1.4 per cent
Just 20% of children aged 12-15 have had their first Covid vaccine in parts of London
Fewer than a fifth of children in parts of London have already had their first Covid vaccine, according to official figures.
The entire programme has been beset by delays and cancellations, with critics arguing the decision to only let youngsters originally get jabbed in schools hampered the drive.
Up-to-date NHS statistics have prompted Labour to call on No10 to ‘turbocharge’ the campaign for younger age groups.
Uptake for 12 to 15-year-olds is lowest in Hackney, where only 19.8 per cent have had their first jab. All of the worst five performing areas are in the capital.
For comparison, rates are three times higher in more affluent parts of the country. In Fareham, Hampshire, 67 per cent of children are jabbed while in South Oxfordshire the rate is 64.3 per cent, and in the New Forest, also in Hampshire, it is 64.1 per cent.
Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson, who was promoted to Labour’s frontbench last week, today urged ministers to open more walk-in clinics so children can get their jabs. Nationwide, six in ten are yet to get their first dose.
Meanwhile, 90 more cases of the variant were confirmed in England and Scotland today, bringing the UK total to 336 and rising by almost a third in a day.
But experts warn the true number of cases of the highly-virulent strain will be over 1,000 because not all positive samples are sequenced. Health Secretary Sajid Javid today confirmed there was now ‘community transmission across multiple regions of England’ of Omicron.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, said he expected it to become the dominant variant ‘probably within the next weeks or a month’, based on how rapidly it is outpacing Delta in the South African epicentre.
He claimed while that timeline means there is little need for more curbs at Christmas, it does not rule out more restrictions being needed at some point in the New Year.
But Boris Johnson today refused to rule out tougher Covid curbs over the festive period, merely insisting that Christmas will be ‘better’ than last year.
He is due to review the current measures in two weeks’ time. Mr Johnson said on a trip to Merseyside: ‘We’re still waiting to see exactly how dangerous it is, what sort of effect it has in terms of deaths and hospitalisations.’
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, said it was ‘entirely possible’ that Omicron could trigger a wave of hospital admissions on par with the peak in January 2021 — even if it is milder than Delta.
He told MailOnline: ‘It’s not uncommon for a more transmissible but less disease-causing pathogen to cause a bigger problem than a virus that is less lethal. If it infects a very large number but only hospitalises a small percentage, we could still end up with an awful lot of people in hospital.’
Dr Clarke warned that scientists risked ‘whitewashing’ the dangers of Omicron and giving people ‘a false sense of security’ by peddling claims it is just a mild illness. He said Britons might not come for their booster or temper their behaviour if they are told the strain is only mild, a claim which he questions.