THE emergence of the Omicron variant has shown there is no “silver bullet” to beating Covid, according to an expert.

Professor Adam Kleczkowski, a mathematical biologist at Strathclyde University, said it has also revealed the idea of “herd immunity” is unlikely to work in the face of a variant “lottery”.

But he said the hope for the longer-term is likely to be a series of outbreaks of the virus which are less severe.

The latest official figures show England has recorded 162,572 new Covid cases – a daily record for the nation since the pandemic began – and 154 new Covid-related deaths. Data for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was not updated due to the bank holiday.

Kleczkowski said: “To me [Omicron] has proven the questions about herd immunity, where it’s much less a useful concept than we might have thought before.

“If we’re going to see the waning of immunity and new variants coming in, that’s a lottery.

“I think the evidence is pointing to a longer-term, hopefully not as severe, series of outbreaks.”

He added: “We really need a public discussion on how we deal with that in the long-term.

“One of the things that has been difficult is to see this ‘silver-bullet’ approach – lockdown being a silver bullet or vaccination being a silver bullet ... unfortunately, it turns out we need to deal with it in many different ways.”

Covid restrictions in Scotland have been introduced in response to the threat of Omicron, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also urging people to “stay at home as much as possible” until at least the first week of January is over.

The approach taken in Scotland is in contrast with England, where Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said restrictions will be an “absolute last resort”.

However, Boris Johnson has tasked ministers with developing “robust contingency plans” for workplace absences as the UK Government acknowledged high Covid levels could hit businesses hard in coming weeks.

Public sector leaders have been asked to prepare for a worst-case scenario of up to a quarter of staff off work as the virus continues to sweep across the country, the Cabinet Office said.

Kleczkowski said the evidence was pointing to a big rise in cases in the coming weeks, the scale of which would depend on how much mixing had taken place during the festive season.

But he said there was no “right or wrong” in the different approaches being taken on introducing restrictions and it was as yet difficult to say if one is better than the other.

“The devolved administrations – in particular Scotland – have been more cautious and also more European in a sense, more in accordance to what other countries do,” he said.

“England tends to strike their own path and that is usually more risk-taking and less risk averse.

“It’s a gamble obviously, but it might work. It’s difficult to assess at the moment how good that is. This is a different approach .

“I don’t think we’re heading for a catastrophic event – but having said this, there will be people going to hospital and deaths that could have been avoided.”