UK faces very difficult four weeks due to Omicron, health security agency says

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LONDON, Dec 14 (Reuters) - The Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is showing a higher rate of reinfection that other variants and its growth rate is shortening in the United Kingdom, the Health Security Agency's chief medical adviser said on Tuesday.

"This is growing very fast with a growth rate of initially two to three days, and that growth rate seems to be shortening rather than lengthening," Dr Susan Hopkins said.

"We are concerned with the large volume of individuals who are being infected every day in the population that we are going to have a very difficult four weeks ahead with cases in the community," she said.

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People queue for their booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine outside a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination centre near Northwich, Britain, December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble

"We are seeing a higher rate of reinfection than we've seen before," Hopkins said.

Hopkins said infection from one variant of coronavirus should protect against severe disease from another variant, but it may not protect against mild disease or from transmission of the virus.

Asked if an infection from the Omicron variant could bolster immunity against the Delta variant, she replied: "There will be protection, I think, from severe disease if you've had one variant or the other, but these new variants may not protect you from mild disease. And may not protect you from transmitting to others."

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Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton, Editing by Paul Sandle

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