On Sunday, UK health officials announced that the alert level for COVID had been raised due to the “rapid increase” in cases of the Omicron variant.
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The level has been reduced from three to four, which is the second highest and indicates that “transmission is high and pressure on health services is widespread and significant or increasing”.
They note, “The first elements show that Omicron spreads much faster than Delta and that the vaccine’s protection against Omicron’s symptomatic diseases is reduced.”
Although the severity of Omicron is not yet known and “will be more evident over the next few weeks,” they note that there have “already been” hospital admissions for Omicron and that it is “likely” that their numbers “will increase rapidly.”
Downing Street said Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation on Sunday evening in the form of a pre-recorded statement.
He is expected to assess the government’s efforts to combat the spread of Omicron, including extending a campaign to boost the vaccine for those over 30 starting Monday.
The Ministry of Health also announced Sunday that from Tuesday, fully vaccinated contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 will be required to take antigen tests daily for seven days. Those who have not been vaccinated must remain isolated for ten days.
The announcements come on top of new measures introduced by Mr Johnson, including returning to remote work and introducing health passports in certain places, measures that will be put to a vote of MPs on Tuesday.
The UK is particularly affected by the pandemic, with more than 146,000 deaths and around 50,000 new infections recorded every day.
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