Omicron could lead to more hospitalisations than last January without ‘Plan C’

Social mixing and people travelling between cities rose sharply after the second UK lockdown, before suddenly falling a few days before Christmas 2020, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Southampton’s demographic data experts WorldPop analysed the movements of anonymous Facebook users in the UK from March 2020.

They found that there was a peak in people travelling and mixing following lockdown two in November 2020, before a dramatic drop in movement from around 18-20 December 2020.

London and the south-east was placed under Tier 4 restrictions on 19 December 2020, meaning people were told not to leave their local areas, not to stay overnight outside of their homes and non-essential hospitality and retail was closed.

Professor Andy Tatem, WorldPop’s director, said: “Our analysis of the weeks approaching and after last Christmas shows there was a sudden surge in activity immediately after the November lockdown ended and then a dramatic drop in the ten days from around 18th-20 December.

“With levels of infection currently still high ahead of this Christmas and concern about the new omicron variant, our study gives useful insights into people’s response to the tightening and relaxation of measures, as well as into mixing patterns during the festive season.”

The research has been published in the International Journal of Health Demographics.

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