Over 19,000 Omicron cases have been confirmed in the South West, according to the latest figures. 

Data from the UK Health Security Agency shows a total of 19,223 cases of Omicron were confirmed in the South West up to 6pm on December 28.

This is an increase of 3,509 from the previous day, December 27. 

An additional 173 'probable' cases have been recorded since yesterday's report, bringing the total number of 'probable' Omicron cases in the South West to 14,250.

READ MORE: PCR tests now available in England says UK Government website - What we know

How many Omicron cases are there in Wiltshire?

According to the latest report from December 23, 911 Omicron cases were confirmed in Wiltshire. 

Wiltshire Council have confirmed that they are not routinely recording specific Omicron cases.

This is because Omicron is now considered to be the dominant Covid strain in the UK. 

The local authority advised that the seven-day case rate is the most useful figure to describe Covid levels in our population. 

It also said the management of Omicron cases in our general population is in line with standard Covid management advice, and cases and contacts are advised to follow the advice from NHS Test and Trace where it is provided.

READ MORE: Wiltshire Covid rate high in lead up to Christmas 

What is the Omicron picture across the UK?

According to UK Health Security Agency figures, there have been 181,547 cases of Omicron confirmed in the UK as of 6pm on December 28.

There are a further 94,778  'probable' Omicron cases in the UK as per the latest report, bringing the total number of 'probable' Omicron cases recorded to 486,714.

'Probable' Omicron cases are detected with an S-gene target failure test. 

The report also confirms that since Omicron was detected in the UK there have been 766 patients with Omicron hospitalised in the country, up by 98 cases since yesterday's report. 

There have also been 53 deaths of people with the confirmed Omicron variant, up by four since yesterday's report. 

READ MORE: How severe is Omicron Covid variant: what we know 

England has the highest number of confirmed Omicron cases in the UK at 181,547. 

The region with the highest number of confirmed Omicron cases in England is London, which has 45,245 confirmed cases, and is followed closely by the South East (41,549 confirmed cases). 

The region with the lowest number of confirmed Omicron cases in England is the North East, which has 7,637 confirmed Omicron cases.

Wales has the lowest number of cases of any UK region, including regions within England, at 7,369 confirmed Omicron cases.

What is Omicron? 

Omicron, scientifically known as B.1.1.529 variant, is a highly mutated strain of Covid-19.

It has 32 mutations in the spike protein, the part of the virus that vaccines use to protect the immune system from Covid. 

Omicron was first spotted in Botswana, South Africa, and there are now thousands of cases in the UK with Sage scientists warning that restrictions need to be tightened or tens of thousands of Covid deaths could occur in England in the next five months

Although the government has only recently introduced Plan B restrictions, the Daily Mail reported officials are considering Plan C restrictions in the new year. 

What is a 'probable' Omicron case and what does S-gene target failure mean? 

A characteristic of the Omicron variant is an 'S-gene drop-out' which can be detected in a PCR test at many UK laboratories as soon as the positive case is confirmed. 

This is described as an S-gene target failure test, and results are recorded as a separate figure in the official statistics on Omicron cases.

S-gene failure is a much quicker indicator of whether someone is infected with the Omicron variant, as confirming Omicron cases requires further sequencing. 

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