The British public have been warned to not believe that Omicron is a milder form of Covid-19, with a warning issued that the strain poses a “serious threat” to the country.
During a Downing Street press conference, Boris Johnson, alongside Professor Chris Whitty and Dr Sophie Makki, issued a plea to the public to get booster vaccine to help protect themselves and others against the surging Covid-19 wave currently taking over the UK.
The Prime Minister has said that 45% of all eligible adults have now received a booster jab however the UK also recorded 78,610 daily cases - the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.
He said that the rollout and expansion of the booster programme is a sign that “a great national fightback has begun”, adding: “Each and everyone of you who are rolling up your sleeve to get jabbed is helping this national effort.”
A sobering warning to the UK public
The Prime Minister used the press conference to give an update to current statistics as the Omicron variant quickly multiples across the UK.
While 45% of all eligible adults in England have been boosted, hospitalisations have increased by 10% and almost by a third in London.
He added: “While hospital admissions are going up nationwide, we’re starting to see admissions coming down among some of the more vulnerable older age groups where we’ve already got those boosters in arms.
“The pace of rollout across the four nations is such that the UK as a whole now has twice as many boosters per head as the EU, and more than twice as many as the United States.”
Professor Chris Whitty issued a sobering warning to the public, stating that the situation with Omicron could become dangerous quickly and urged the public to “prioritise what matters” to them over the Christmas period and limit their social interactions outside those which “really matter to them”.
He said: “This is a really serious threat at the moment. How big a threat? There are several things we don’t know. But all the things that we do know are bad and the principal one being the speed at which this is moving, it is moving at an absolutely phenomenal pace.
“Therefore between the time that it first starts to really take off in a way people will be able to see and the point when we get to very, very, very large numbers will be quite a short one, and that, I think, is part of the issue in trying to deal with this.
“I am afraid there will be an increasing number of Omicron patients going into the NHS, going into hospital, going into intensive cares, and exact ratios we don’t yet know but there will be substantial numbers.”
Booster jabs best line of defence against “potential threat”
Mr Johnson said that the government was “throwing everything” at aiming to get the UK boosted by the end of December.
Prof Whitty also placed emphasis on the importance of a booster, stating that immunity may be “eroded” against Omicron with only two doses, adding: “The point of the booster is to try and get people back to as good as a position in terms of replicating this really good protection after they’ve had their booster dose.”
Dr Sophie Makki, national incident director at the UK Health Security Agency, echoed Prof Whitty’s comments and urged the public to get boosted to protect themselves from the Omicron strain.
She said: “Omicron is spreading rapidly across England, with the doubling time for Omicron infections now under two days. Cases are expected to rise exponentially in the coming days and weeks.
“This highlights the potential threat this variant poses to public health in England and across the UK. Getting your booster is your best defence against infection from Omicron and we urge everyone who is eligible to get their jab without delay.”
How many Covid-19 cases are there in UK?
It comes amid fears over rapidly rising Covid-19 cases.
The UK has recorded 78,610 daily cases as of Wednesday 15 December.
This marks the highest daily cases recorded by the UK since the beginning of the pandemic.
4,671 additional Omicron cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 10,017 - a 87% day-on-day increase.
How many vaccines have been given in the UK?
51,332,920 first doses of a Covid-19 vaccine have been issued in the UK so far, which marks a daily rise of 34,082.
There have been 46,842,497 second doses of a vaccine given - a daily increase of 37,888 - with a further 24,732,162 third or booster jabs also administered.
Daily totals show that 656,711 people received a booster or third dose on Tuesday 14 December alone.