Appearing on Sky News this morning, former Vaccines Minister Mr Zahawi said: “We’ve seen this [...] before with the Kent and Delta variants.
“There are cases in hospital with Omicron. ”
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for the UK Health Security Agency, gave a similar update, telling the BBC that scientists are “getting reports of individuals coming into hospital over the last few days with Omicron and we are investigating those carefully with the hospitals concerned.”
The news comes just two days after scientists suggested there could be as many as one million cases across the country by the end of this month, with Omicron expected to become dominant within a matter of days.
"What we know, hence the concern, is that a third of infections in London are Omicron,” Mr Zahawi said.
"Reported tests are indicating about 1,600 cases, but the number of infections in the community will be multiple that - up to 10 times.
"It's highly infectious, with a doubling rate between two and three days.
"Very quickly Omicron will be the dominant variant in the UK and probably the rest of the world.”
Dr Hopkins raised concerns about the potential impact Omicron could have on the NHS, and that she believes a big wave of new infections is “inevitable”.
“We have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And I think our job is to highlight that this is a big wave. It’s coming straight at us. If we see even half the severity that we saw with Delta then we’re facing a very large number of hospitalisations and potential deaths.”
She predicted that it would be another two weeks before there is any certainty on the severity of illness caused by Omicron, which would suggest data could be available around the Christmas weekend.
It is hoped that millions more people will be able to get hold of a booster jab in the interim, with the booking system opened for people aged 30 - 39.
All eligible adults can book their booster jab two months (61 days) after their second dose using the NHS national booking system, getting their top-up in protection three months (91 days) on from their second dose.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The Covid-19 booster programme is accelerating rapidly and more than 22 million people in the UK have already received their top-up, securing vital protection ahead of Christmas.
“This is our national mission – the most recent data shows boosters are the essential defence against Omicron and we are doing everything in our power to get jabs into arms as quickly as possible.
“We are now expanding the offer to over-30s, so please come forward as quickly as possible to get boosted and help our country get ahead in this race with the variant.”