- The omicron coronavirus is causing a “tidal wave” of infections in the United Kingdom, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
- Concerns about the new variant prompted Johnson’s Conservative government to reinstate restrictions lifted nearly six months before.
PM Boris Johnson said on Sunday that the omicron coronavirus is causing a “tidal wave” of infections in the United Kingdom. He announced a massive increase in booster vaccinations to strengthen defenses against it.
In a televised statement, Johnson said that due to the omicron “emergency,” everyone over the age of 18 will be offered a third shot of vaccine by the end of the month. The end of January was the previous deadline.
He claims that cases of the highly transmissible variant are doubling every two to three days and that “an omicron tidal wave is coming.”
“I’m afraid it’s now clear that two vaccine doses are simply insufficient to provide the level of protection that we all require,” Johnson said. “However, the good news is that our scientists are confident that with a third dose, a booster dose, we will all be able to restore our level of protection.”
He announced a “national mission” to deliver booster vaccines, with pop-up vaccination centers and seven-day-a-week clinics backed by military planners and thousands of volunteer vaccine recipients.
England is included in Johnson’s December 31 deadline. Further parts of the UK, such as Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, are expected to ramp up their vaccination campaigns.
According to UK scientists, existing vaccines appear to be less effective in preventing symptomatic infections in people exposed to Omicron. However, preliminary data suggest that effectiveness rises to 70% and 75% after a third vaccine dose.
Johnson’s announcement came just hours after the British government raised the country’s official coronavirus threat level on Sunday, warning that the omicron variant’s rapid spread had pushed the country into dangerous territory.
When COVID-19 is already widespread, the emergence of the highly transmissible new strain “adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and health care services,” according to the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
On a 5-point scale, they suggested increasing the alert level from 3 to 4. The highest level, 5, indicates that authorities believe the healthcare system is on the verge of collapse.
Early evidence suggests that Omicron is spreading much faster than the currently dominant delta variant and that vaccines provide less protection. According to British officials, Omicron is expected to overtake delta as the dominant strain in the United Kingdom within days.
“Data on the severity will become clearer in the coming weeks,” they said, “but omicron hospitalizations are already occurring and are likely to increase rapidly.”
Concerns about the new variant prompted Johnson’s Conservative government to reinstate restrictions lifted nearly six months before. In most indoor settings, COVID-certified masks are required.
Nightclubs require 19-year-old certificates, and people are encouraged to work from home if at all possible.
Many scientists, however, believe that will not be enough and are calling for tougher measures, which the government has so far resisted.
Scientists in South Africa, where Omicron was first discovered, say they see signs that it may cause less severe disease than a delta but say it’s too early to say for sure.
Source: CBC News
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