Susan Hopkins’ brutal quip in leaked email chain about new Covid variant

Omicron: Whitty warns of ‘two epidemics on top of one another’

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Dr Susan Hopkins will give evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee today on the latest findings about the new Omicron variant. Alongside Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, and Dr Thomas Waite, Interim Deputy Medical Officer, they will address transmissibility, severity of illness, and vaccine effectiveness. Prof Whitty warned at a news conference last night that the country was experiencing two separate epidemics amid the surge in Omicron cases and the ongoing threat of the Delta variant.

He added: “I’m afraid we have to be realistic that records will be broken a lot over the next few weeks as the rates continue to go up.”

He also warned people not to mix with people “you don’t have to”.

In today’s meeting with the Committee, new measures to slow the spread of the virus are expected to be discussed.

MPs will also likely ask about the effect further restrictions will have on young people and schools.

Dr Hopkins is the Chief Medical Advisor at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The UKHSA estimated on Monday that Omicron is currently infecting around 200,000 people every day, with this number expected to rise in the coming days since the doubling time is believed to be less than two days.

An email chain involving Dr Hopkins from last December was released by Politico in February.

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary at the time, had announced the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus discovered in the UK.

London and the South East had been plunged into Tier 3 restrictions, the toughest at the time, as cases soared across the region.

This was later revealed to be the Alpha variant, also known as B.1.1.7, first discovered in Kent in September 2020.

It became a dominant strain in the UK, and was linked to the sharp increase in cases at the beginning of 2021.

The Politico report claimed Mr Hancock’s announcement took leading health professionals by surprise.

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David Farren, an infection control doctor based in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, said in the email chain: “I can’t see anything on the usual channels.”

NHS microbiologist Michael Kelsey replied: “This is part of the new ‘science by press release’ that has become the norm.”

Dr Hopkins responded: “Science by press release is correct.”

She also added that Public Health England would not be able to brief scientists on the new variant for at least another 24 hours.

However, a spokesperson denied that Dr Hopkins was taking a swipe at the Government in her emails. The spokesperson said: “Dr Hopkins was absolutely not criticising the Government.”

Dr Hopkins has been at the forefront of the UK’s response to the ongoing pandemic, working around the clock to keep the public safe.

She was recently awarded the Irish Government’s Presidential Distinguished Service Award.

The highly prestigious award honours Irish people living around the world for their contributions to the nation and its reputation abroad.

She grew up in Kildare, Ireland and trained at Trinity College Dublin, carrying out specialist training in Dublin hospitals before leaving to work in Seattle and Paris. She has since settled in London.

Upon receiving the award, Dr Hopkins said: “I am very honoured to receive this award and recognition from the government of Ireland for my contributions to science and technology, working collaboratively with colleagues in the UK and globally to combat infectious diseases threats.”

Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UKHSA, paid tribute to Dr Hopkins.

She said: “This is a fantastic achievement and completely deserved.

“A massive congratulations should go out to Susan for being honoured in such a prestigious way.”

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