UK health chief
FILE PHOTO: Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, speaks at a coronavirus media briefing at Downing Street in London, Britain May 27, 2021. Matt Dunham/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

There is no sign of a surge of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Britain so far, the chief of the UK Health Security Agency said on Tuesday, adding that there was no rise in the proportion of tests with a quirk that distinguishes it from Delta.

Jenny Harries said there were five confirmed Omicron cases in England and 10 “highly likely” cases, but that was not a sign of an increase in “S-gene target failure” in PCR tests in Britain, which is a feature of Omicron.

“Right across the country we watch for… S-gene target failure, which is a sort of proxy measure,” Harries told BBC radio. Cases with S-gene target failure can then be prioritised for full genomic sequencing.

“We have seen no significant rise from the normal 1-in-1000 cases that we would normally have. So we’re not seeing that surge currently.”

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