UK PM anticipates Omicron 'tidal wave'; pushes for vaccine booster
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday warned of an impending Omicron "tidal wave." He set a December-end deadline to give booster shots to those aged over 18 years; accelerating the previous target by a month. Johnson declared the spread of Omicron "an emergency" as cases involving the variant were doubling every two to three days.
Why does it matter?
- Omicron cases in the UK have climbed to 3,137, marking a single-day rise of 65% from 1,898 on Saturday.
- The COVID Alert Level has now been raised from "three" to "four."
- A level "four" alert signifies that "transmission is high, and pressure on healthcare services is widespread and substantial or rising."
- The Johnson administration is under fire for violating COVID-19 regulations last Christmas.
What did Johnson say?
"No one should be in any doubt, there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming," Johnson said in a televised address after the Omicron surge in the UK. "We know from bitter experience how these exponential curves develop."
Omicron spreads faster than Delta: Officials
The action was triggered by advice from the UK Health Security Agency, the chief medical officers for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland said. Omicron is spreading much faster than the Delta variant and it also reduces vaccine protection against symptomatic disease, they said. The new alert is intended to relieve stress on the state-run National Health Service (NHS).
Why are booster doses required?
Due to the lowered vaccine protection, booster doses have become essential, the four officers said. Vaccine booster shots provided by Pfizer and Moderna enhanced immune response and demonstrated "excellent effectiveness," they added.
5.3 lakh boosters administered Saturday
Johnson also advanced the timeline for delivering booster doses and 42 military planning teams would be stationed nationwide for the exercise. The government had previously set a goal of delivering boosters to all adults in England by the end of January. Over 5.3 lakh booster shots were administered on Saturday, but the daily pace would need to double up to meet the accelerated target.
How bad is UK's COVID-19 outbreak?
With over 146,000 COVID-19 deaths so far, the UK remains one of the worst-hit nations. Currently, the infection rates remain stubbornly high at about 50,000 daily cases. Omicron accounts for a third of all new cases in London.