THE UK Health Security Agency is investigating two confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus linked to a private party held in Somerset.

Further suspected cases of the Omicron variant linked to the same event are also under investigation.

The agency’s confirmation of the two Omicron cases follows claims made on social media by Professor Tim Spector, leader of the ZOE Covid Study, that a “super-spreader event” was reported in the county.

On Sunday, December 5, Professor Spector tweeted that a ZOE contributor “has told of a super-spreader event in Somerset at a 60th birthday party where all guests were vaccinated and some with boosters”.

The ZOE Covid Study app was launched at the end of March 2020 to support coronavirus research and is the world’s largest ongoing Covid-19 study with over four million contributors globally. 

Professor Spector, of King's College London, claimed guests “had a lateral flow test 24 hours beforehand that was negative” and “14/18 developed PCR positive for Omicron”.

His tweets added they only had mild symptoms and did not require hospital care.

Dominic Mellon, deputy director for the UK Health Security Agency South West, said: “We can confirm that we are investigating two confirmed cases of Omicron variant linked to a private party held in Somerset with further suspected cases under investigation linked to the same event.

“Wherever a case of the Omicron variant is identified or suspected in our region, we are following up with any contacts to emphasise the importance of self-isolation and testing.”

Under rules introduced after the Omicron variant was identified in the UK, anyone who is identified as being a contact of a confirmed or suspected Omicron case must self-isolate for 10 days.

“It is critically important that we do everything we can to help stop the variant’s spread while we learn more about how infectious it is, whether it could cause more severe illness, and how effective our vaccines are against this variant,” said Mr Mellon.

“Ahead of attending social events, we advise taking a lateral flow test, meet outdoors if you can, or if indoors, open a window to let in fresh air.

“All of these individual actions can make a difference to help slow the spread of the infection and help keep each other safe.

“New variants can spread very quickly, and we need everyone to remain cautious and take steps to keep COVID-safe, particularly at a time when our overall coronavirus rates remain high.

“Get vaccinated on schedule – first dose, second dose, booster. Wear a face covering on public transport, in shops and crowded places. If you have symptoms, isolate immediately and arrange a PCR test.”

The County Gazette asked the Health Security Agency for more details, but it could only confirm the private party took place in Somerset.

Somerset County Gazette: CABINET MEETING: Boris Johnson told ministers today the Omicron variant of coronavirus appears to be “more transmissible” than Delta (Image: Tom Nicholson, PA Wire)CABINET MEETING: Boris Johnson told ministers today the Omicron variant of coronavirus appears to be “more transmissible” than Delta (Image: Tom Nicholson, PA Wire)

On Monday, health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs that none of the of the Omicron variant cases identified to date have resulted in hospital admission.

Boris Johnson told ministers the Omicron variant of the virus appears to be “more transmissible” than the Delta variant at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning.

In an account of the meeting, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: "The prime minister said it was too early to draw conclusions on the characteristics of Omicron but early indications were that it is more transmissible than Delta."

Professor Spector believes the UK has more Omicron cases than official estimates show, and he says experts are expecting the number to double around every two days.

On BBC Breakfast this morning, he said: “The official estimates are about 350-odd Omicron cases, and because the current testing is missing a lot of those, it’s probably at least 1,000 to 2,000, I would guess at the moment."

He also warned cases of the Omicron variant in the UK could soon be higher than in some countries placed on the travel red list.

The County Gazette has contacted ZOE for a comment.