Top scientist warns you can catch Omicron through whiff of infected breath

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A top scientist has said you only need to be exposed to “a whiff of infected breath” to catch Omicron.

Professor Peter Openshaw, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said: “Omicron is so infectious. It has ended up being so infectious that it almost needs just a whiff of infected breath and you could get infected.”

The expert also feared what might happen with coronavirus in the future.

He added: “What worries me particularly is what’s going to be the long-term consequences of this infection which may take years to emerge.

“Particularly in those unvaccinated, who don’t have protection.”

Meanwhile, hospitals are in chaos as many frontline NHS staff are absent with Covid-19 while others are struggling to get tested.

The number of staff off with Covid-19 has nearly doubled in a month.

And bosses are demanding that key workers get priority for lateral flow tests as NHS staff are struggling to access them.

Dr Azeem Maj-eed, of Imperial College London, said: “I am required to test twice a week as an NHS worker but when I log on to the site there’s often none in stock.”

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PCR centres are fighting a mounting backlog because of a shortage of trained staff.

Chris Hughes, boss of a PCR test lab, said they were trying to raise capacity but added: “The limiting factor is the people. It takes about two weeks to get somebody fully competent.”

A total of 24,632 staff at NHS hospital trusts had Covid or were self-isolating on Boxing Day.

That’s up 31% from a week earlier and nearly double the 12,508 at the start of December.

Matthew Taylor, head of the NHS Confederation, warned the health service is facing a “perfect storm” of rising hospital admissions and higher numbers of frontline staff off sick.

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