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Javid warns of change to ‘fully vaccinated’ status in New Year

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People may need three jabs to use controversial Covid passports for entry to large venues by January, the Health Secretary warned tonight. 

Sajid Javid told the Commons that people will only be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ once they have had their booster, and that three doses will be required for vaccine passports once all eligible adults in England have had ‘a reasonable chance’ to get the next jab. 

But he refused to indicate when this would come into effect, as confusion mounts over whether the Prime Minister’s promise in his TV address on Sunday means everybody will have had their booster by December 31 or will just be offered a third dose by then. 

The Health Secretary also pointed out that the incoming rules on Covid passes meant that from Wednesday people will need to show a negative lateral flow test to go to nightclubs or large events.

Mr Javid’s extraordinary statement comes amid murmurings of a large Tory rebellion to Boris Johnson’s so-called ‘Plan B’ restrictions, which include the passports as well as orders to work from home and compulsory facemasks for further public spaces. 

Under the new regulations, published barely 24 hours before tomorrow’s vote, people could be fined £10,000 if they try to falsify a Covid pass or test result.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Entry to Venues and Events) (England) Regulations 2021 make it an offence to make, adapt, supply or offer to supply ‘false evidence of Covid status to another person’ which is known to be ‘false or misleading’ and this will be punishable by a fixed penalty notice (FPN).

Other offences under the regulations also could result in fines for breaking the rules. These include a £1,000 FPN in the first instance, reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days, for example for venues who do not comply with the rules or ignore improvement notices issued by councils.

The fines double for the second and third offences (£2,000 and then £4,000), jumping to £10,000 for the fourth or any subsequent offences thereafter.

Tories are particularly opposed to making NHS Covid passes, displaying vaccine status or a negative lateral flow result, mandatory for entry to large venues such as nightclubs. 

The measures are expected to be approved with Labour’s support, but that would be a significant blow to Mr Johnson’s premiership, which has been rocked by a series of scandals. In the past week, his Government has been accused of throwing rule-breaking Christmas parties at Downing Street last year, while gatherings across the country were criminalised. 

Earlier, Mr Johnson said MPs thinking of rebelling against the measures needed to recognise there was ‘no room for complacency’ in dealing with the Omicron variant.

Asked about support among his backbenchers ahead of tomorrow’s vote, the Prime Minister told broadcasters: ‘I think that what everybody needs to recognise is a couple of things, that Omicron is a very serious risk to public health, and that it’s spreading very fast, and I think there’s no room for complacency.’ 

As the coronavirus crisis enters its latest crucial phase:

  • Sir Keir Starmer announced he is supporting the Government’s new Covid crackdown as he urged people to ‘stick to the rules’ to help prevent the NHS from being ‘overwhelmed’ by Omicron; 
  • The entire NHS England was put on the highest level of alert for the first time since March today after the UK’s Omicron outbreak surged by 50 per cent in a day;
  • Britain has suffered its first death from Omicron, the Prime Minister revealed on a visit to a vaccination clinic near Paddington. However, experts are demanding answers about the UK’s first Omicron fatality, such as the individual’s vaccination status, if they were part of group vulnerable to Covid, and if the virus was the leading cause of death; 
  • GPs fumed they found out about the jabbing goal at the same time as the rest of the nation, and NHS bosses warned it would take ‘time’ to get the scaled up programme ‘fully up and running’;
  • Former Cabinet minister David Davis and Labour MPs slammed the Government for failing to ramp up the booster drive in September, and warned the ‘vaccine wall of defence was crumbling’;
  • Sajid Javid said that patients waiting for elective surgery such as hip replacements could see their treatment postponed as the NHS races to roll out a million jabs a day. He promised, however, that critical care for cancer patients would be unaffected;
  • Both Scotland and Wales dangled the possibility of having to impose tougher restrictions as Boris Johnson failed to rule out more measures for England.
Sajid Javid told MPs that every adult across England could expect to be offered a 'chance to get boosted by the end of this month' though he suggested not everyone would get a dose in December

Sajid Javid told MPs that every adult across England could expect to be offered a ‘chance to get boosted by the end of this month’ though he suggested not everyone would get a dose in December

People queue for Covid-19 vaccines and booster inoculations at the Elland Road Vaccination Centre in Leeds

People queue for Covid-19 vaccines and booster inoculations at the Elland Road Vaccination Centre in Leeds

Members of the public are pictured beyond hearts painted on the National Covid Memorial Wall, as they queue to receive a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine outside Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London

 

 

NHS England was put on the highest level of alert for the first time since March. Level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that an expected influx of Covid patients could start to force the closure of other vital services

NHS England was put on the highest level of alert for the first time since March. Level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that an expected influx of Covid patients could start to force the closure of other vital services

Sir Keir Starmer takes dig at Boris Johnson saying ‘we must all stick to the rules… however inconvenient’ as he uses Covid address to describe Labour’s ‘patriotism’ and insist Britain needs ‘leadership we can trust’ 

Sir Keir Starmer has announced he is supporting the Government’s new Covid crackdown and efforts to ramp up the booster jab programme as he urged people to ‘stick to the rules’ to help prevent the NHS from being ‘overwhelmed’ by the Omicron variant.

In a pre-recorded televised address to the nation this evening, the Labour leader accused Ministers of acting too slowly in the face of the threat from the fast-spreading strain and said the country needs ‘leadership we can trust’.

Sir Keir also insisted that people should ‘stick to the rules’ – in what is likely to be regarded as a thinly-veiled refence to allegations of rule-busting Christmas parties at Downing Street last year.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that all eligible adults in England are to be offered a third dose of the vaccine by the end of the month.

In the BBC One broadcast, Sir Keir urged people to get their top-up injections and confirmed that the Labour Party would be supporting the Government’s so-called ‘Plan B’ measures tomorrow, which include orders to work from home, compulsory facemasks and controversial Covid passports for large venues. 

This means the restrictions will sail through the Commons tomorrow despite Tory murmurings of a large rebellion against the Covid crackdown.

Mr Javid told Parliament that it is the Government’s intention to include proof of a booster jab, once all adults have had a chance to get theirs.

He said: ‘From Wednesday – subject to this House’s approval – you’ll need to show a negative lateral flow test to get into nightclubs and large events, with an exemption for the double vaccinated.

‘Once all adults have had a reasonable chance to get their booster jab, we intend to change this exemption to require a booster dose.’

He said it is ‘misleading’ to say MPs are being asked to vote on ‘vaccine passports’.

He told the Commons: ‘The Government has been absolutely clear about when it talks about access to nightclubs or to very large gatherings… that the requirement is to take a free lateral flow test and make sure it’s negative.

‘And if you don’t want to do that then you can prove your vaccine status. It’s up to that individual. That’s not a vaccine passport and the sooner we get rid of this misleading description of what the Government is proposing, the better.’

The Plan B restrictions also include compulsory mask-wearing indoors in most public places, and guidance for people to work from home where possible.

NHS Covid passes showing full vaccination or a recent negative test will be required for entry to indoor venues containing more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people, from Wednesday.

Mr Johnson’s landslide victory in the 2019 general election left him with a Commons majority of about 80 MPs.

If around 75 Tories who have indicated their opposition vote against the measures rather than abstain, they would deliver an even bigger revolt than was seen against the strengthened tiered system of coronavirus restrictions in December last year, when 55 Tories voted against the measures.

There are expected to be ‘a number of votes’ on the different regulations, Downing Street said.

Conservative MP Marcus Fysh, one of the rebels, was criticised for comparing the plans to the atrocities of the Nazi regime.

‘We are not a ‘papers please’ society. This is not Nazi Germany,’ he told BBC Radio 5 Live. ‘It’s the thin end of an authoritarian wedge and that’s why we will resist it.’

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, responded: ‘It is completely unacceptable to compare the proposed vaccine passports with Nazi Germany.

‘We urge people, particularly those in positions of authority, to avoid these highly inappropriate comparisons.’

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘We are facing a tidal wave of Omicron and these Plan B measures are a vital part of enabling us to buy time so that we can get more of these booster doses in arms and provide the protection that will protect both lives and livelihoods. 

‘On the issue of certification, as I said, it requires proof of a negative test unless you are double vaccinated, and it allows us to keep some of these settings open, which is vital for hospitality, where otherwise we would have had no choice but to close them, which no one wants to see.’

On Sunday night in a televised address to the nation, the Prime Minister told the public that, in the face of ‘a tidal wave of Omicron’ it is ‘now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need’.

He added that scientists are ‘confident’ that, with a booster, ‘we can all bring our level of protection back up’.

On Monday, Mr Johnson announced the first UK death with Omicron during a visit to a vaccination clinic near Paddington in west London.

The Prime Minister said: ‘Sadly, yes, Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron. 

Mr Johnson (pictured visiting a vaccination centre in London today) begged Tories to back his 'Plan B' Covid curbs today amid fears more than 70 will rebel in a crunch vote tomorrow

Mr Johnson (pictured visiting a vaccination centre in London today) begged Tories to back his ‘Plan B’ Covid curbs today amid fears more than 70 will rebel in a crunch vote tomorrow

NHS raises alert to HIGHEST level as UK Omicron cases jump 50% in 24 hours to almost 5,000 and Boris confirms first death with mutant strain — but overall daily Covid infections rise just 6% to 54,661 as booster drive descends into chaos on first day 

The entire NHS England was put on the highest level of alert for the first time since March today after the UK’s Omicron outbreak surged by 50 per cent in a day and the first death with the mutant strain was confirmed.

Health service bosses have raised the alert to level four meaning they believe there is a real threat that an influx of Covid patients could start to force the closure of other vital services.

The move comes as the NHS was told to put non-urgent care on the backburner once again and lead the country’s mammoth Omicron-busting booster vaccine drive which aims to offer all 53million adults a third dose by the end of January — a goal that would require the programme doubling its current daily rate.

It came as officials confirmed another 1,576 cases of the highly-evolved Omicron variant over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 4,713 — however this is believed to be a vast underestimate with the true number several times greater because not all positive tests are analysed for variants.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said the best estimate was that there are currently 200,000 overall daily infections across the country, with Omicron expected to become dominant in London by tomorrow and nationally within days.

Yet, the Department of Health’s daily update revealed that there were only 54,661 overall Covid cases in the past 24 hours, marking a rise of just 6 per cent week-on-week. 

No10’s scientific advisers have warned this could rise to an astronomical 1million per day by the end of the month if Omicron continues to spread at its current pace. The DOH also recorded another 926 daily hospital admissions, up 14 per cent in a week, and 38 deaths, down 7 per cent.

‘So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population. So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters.’

Mr Johnson repeatedly declined to rule out further Covid restrictions ahead of Christmas but stressed the urgency of people getting boosters.

‘Throughout the pandemic I’ve been at great pains to stress to the public that we have to watch where the pandemic is going and we take whatever steps are necessary to protect public health,’ he added.

In England a booster is available to everyone aged 18 or over from this week as long as the second dose was at least three months ago. Over-30s can already book a booster online and, from Wednesday, this will be extended to over-18s.

The NHS will need to exceed 840,000 booster jabs per day in a bid to fight Omicron, which is causing around 200,000 new infections per day, the Health Secretary said.

Mr Javid told MPs that every adult across England could expect to be offered a ‘chance to get boosted by the end of this month’ though he suggested not everyone would get a dose in December.

He said: ‘It is asking a huge amount of our colleagues in the NHS.

‘And it’s our joint view that we can try to offer adults a chance to get boosted by the end of this month.

‘And that does not mean every single person necessarily can get that booster, it requires them to come forward and to take up this offer as well, as well as everything going right in this huge expansion plan.’

It follows confusion over whether the Government has promised that people can all have a jab in their arm by the December 31 deadline, or whether they will just have an offer of a future vaccine.

It comes as the UK recorded its first death involving Omicron, and 10 people are in hospital with the variant.

Most of these 10 have received two vaccines and range in age from 18 to 85, though there are no details on whether they have underlying conditions.

Mr Javid told the Commons: ‘Until now the highest number of jabs that we’ve delivered in a single day in the UK was over 840,000.

‘We’ll not only need to match that but we will need to beat that every day. But we can and we’ve got a plan to try and do it.

‘We’re opening more vaccination sites including pop-up and mobile sites that’ll be working seven days a week.

‘We are training thousands more volunteer vaccinators, we’re asking GPs and pharmacies to do more and we’re drafting in 42 military planning teams across every region of our country.’

Mr Javid said he acknowledge that ‘our national mission comes with some difficult trade-offs’, meaning some non-urgent appointments and surgery in the NHS may be cancelled.

He added: ‘These are steps that no Health Secretary would wish to take unless they were absolutely necessary, but I am convinced that if we don’t prioritise the booster now the health consequences will be far more grave in the months that lie ahead.’

Mr Javid told MPs there are now 4,713 confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK, adding that the UK Health Security Agency estimates that the current number of ‘daily infections are around 200,000’.

He added: ‘While Omicron represents over 20% of cases in England, we’ve already seen it rise to over 44% in London and we expect it to become the dominant Covid 19 variant in the capital in the next 48 hours.’

Mr Javid also urged people to have boosters as a way of protecting children.

Robert Halfon, Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee, asked Mr Javid to ‘make sure schools are kept open in January’.

Mr Javid said: ‘One of the reasons to take the measures we’ve said, especially around expanding the booster programme, is to make sure we can prioritise our children.’

Downing Street has indicated schools will be kept open unless there is an ‘absolute public health emergency’ and warned local authorities against deciding to close early for Christmas as a precautionary measure.

‘There are certainly no plans to put in any restriction on schooling, we know how vital education has been and how detrimental the pandemic has been towards children and young people who, in many cases, have borne the brunt of this,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.   

Daily Covid cases in Omicron ground zero South Africa surge 119% in a week and hospital admissions jump 141% but country records just 11 deaths

South Africa’s Omicron wave continued to surge today as daily Covid cases and hospital admissions more than doubled in a week.

Officials recorded 13,992 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, marking a 119 per cent rise on the figure last Monday and six times more than a fortnight ago.

With a test positivity rate of 31 per cent today, it suggests the outbreak in South Africa is growing faster than swabs can keep up. 

The country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said there were 422 new hospital admissions across the country in the last day, a rise of 141 per cent compared to last week.

It also revealed there has also been a sharp rise in Covid inpatient numbers since the weekend. 

A total of 6,198 people are being treated for the virus now compared to the 5,562 who were in hospital on Sunday — the biggest single-day rise since the new variant took off.

Yet, despite the increasing case and hospital numbers, there were just 11 deaths attributed to Covid in the last 24 hours, up only marginally on last week. 

Doctors in South Africa’s Omicron ground zero maintain that Omicron patients are coming in with milder illness and being discharged quicker.

Official figures suggest the number of Covid hospital patients with severe illness is a third of the level at the same point in the country’s Delta wave.

Scientists believe South Africa is benefitting from high levels of T cell immunity after recording high Covid infection rates in previous waves — with up to 80 per cent of the population already having had Covid.

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert from the University of East Anglia in England, told MailOnline that there were ‘grounds for optimism’ for the UK, which has high levels of natural and vaccine-induced immunity. 

With a test positivity rate of 31 per cent today, it suggests the outbreak in South Africa is growing faster than swabs can keep up

With a test positivity rate of 31 per cent today, it suggests the outbreak in South Africa is growing faster than swabs can keep up

The majority of new cases today were in Gauteng province (48 per cent) which has been at the heart of the country's Omicron outbreak. It was followed by KwaZulu-Natal (19 per cent), while Western Cape accounted for 10% and Free State and North West each accounted for 5 per cent

The majority of new cases today were in Gauteng province (48 per cent) which has been at the heart of the country’s Omicron outbreak. It was followed by KwaZulu-Natal (19 per cent), while Western Cape accounted for 10% and Free State and North West each accounted for 5 per cent

The NICD said that today’s case numbers may include several backlogged infections that were delayed due to an IT glitch over the weekend.

The agency said on Twitter: ‘We are working through the data, which is now flowing into the #COVID19 laboratory data stream.

‘And we would like to indicate that the reporting backlog may result in the inclusion of retrospective case data over the next few days in the daily #COVID19 surveillance reports.’ 

The majority of new cases today were in Gauteng province (48 per cent) which has been at the heart of the country’s Omicron outbreak.

It was followed by KwaZulu-Natal (19 per cent), while Western Cape accounted for 10% and Free State and North West each accounted for 5 per cent.

Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga both made up 4 per cent, Limpopo accounted for 2 per cent and Northern Cape accounted for just 1 per cent.

It came as the UK’s Omicron outbreak surged by 50 per cent in a day today after more than 1,500 Britons were diagnosed with the mutant virus and the first death was confirmed.

Officials confirmed another 1,576 cases of the highly-evolved variant over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 4,713 — however this is believed to be a vast underestimate with the true number several times greater because not all positive tests are analysed for variants.  

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said the best estimate was that there are currently 200,000 overall daily infections across the country, with Omicron expected to become dominant in London by tomorrow and nationally within days. 

Yet, the Department of Health’s daily update revealed that there were only 54,661 overall Covid cases in the past 24 hours, marking a rise of just 6 per cent week-on-week. No10’s scientific advisers have warned this could rise to an astronomical 1million per day by the end of the month if Omicron continues to spread at its current pace. The DOH also recorded another 926 daily hospital admissions, up 14 per cent in a week, and 38 deaths, down 7 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister today revealed that at least one patient has died from the Omicron variant as he warned it was now leading to hospitalisations, and that the ‘best thing’ people could do was get a booster. 

The PM did not reveal the age of the person who died, or if they had underlying health conditions, which made them vulnerable or whether Omicron was the leading cause of their death or a secondary factor.

Mr Johnson warned against being complacent about Omicron, despite reports in South Africa that it is milder than Delta. The death in the UK is thought to be the first confirmed Omicron fatality in the world. However, given the variant makes up almost every case in South Africa it is likely that the vast majority of fatalities there are due to the mutant strain but a lack of testing means these are not picked up.

Two Covid jabs should still slash risk of dying from Omicron or being hospitalised by 84% even if they offer virtually zero protection against symptoms 

Two Covid jabs should still slash the risk of dying from Omicron by up to 84 per cent but a booster is twice as good at preventing someone from falling ill, according to official estimates. 

SAGE modelling published over the weekend worked off the assumption that two Pfizer doses give 83.7 per cent protection against hospitalisation and death from the highly-evolved strain. 

A two-dose course of AstraZeneca‘s vaccine was estimated to reduce the risk of severe disease from Omicron by 77.1 per cent. However, both vaccine brands were assumed to wane within three to six months.

At that point, the Government’s scientific advisers believe protection from two AstraZeneca jabs could be as low as 61.3 per cent and 67.6 per cent for Pfizer.

A booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was estimated to top-up immunity to over 93 per cent, regardless of which jab someone was originally given — providing a similar level of protection as two doses did against Delta. 

These vaccine effectiveness estimates were presented in modelling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on Saturday and are based on lab studies looking at antibodies, rather than real-world data. It shows 'vaccine effectiveness' on symptomatic disease and hospitalisations/deaths from Omicron. The dots represent the number of people out of a group of 100 who are vulnerable to Covid. For example the study found boosters offered 93 per cent protection against hospitalisation and death. In a group of 100 booster vaccinated people, you would expect seven to require hospital care

These vaccine effectiveness estimates were presented in modelling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on Saturday and are based on lab studies looking at antibodies, rather than real-world data. It shows ‘vaccine effectiveness’ on symptomatic disease and hospitalisations/deaths from Omicron. The dots represent the number of people out of a group of 100 who are vulnerable to Covid. For example the study found boosters offered 93 per cent protection against hospitalisation and death. In a group of 100 booster vaccinated people, you would expect seven to require hospital care

The estimates were presented in modelling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on Saturday and are based on lab studies looking at antibodies. The model warned that the vaccine-resistant Omicron variant may lead to more hospitalisations than England’s second wave last January, when up to 4,000 infected patients were being admitted to NHS facilities every day.

Scientists have been racing to work out how effective existing vaccines will perform on the Omicron strain since it was first discovered on November 24. There was huge concern that it would be unrecognisable to jabs because of the 30-plus mutations on its spike protein. 

Current jabs were designed to target the original virus that emerged in Wuhan. But because the variant is so new, experts are still relying on lab experiments which may not reflect how the variant will behave in the real world.

Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline he expects two jabs to protect against severe illness even better. He said hospital data in South Africa’s Omicron ground zero suggested T cells, which are more difficult to measure, were playing a crucial role in immunity.

However, Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at Reading University, argued the drop in efficacy of two jabs was still ‘concerning’. He told MailOnline: ‘Nobody ever expected Omicron to wipe out vaccine efficacy it was just a drop that was expected — and that in itself can do enough damage.’ 

Even at 84 per cent protection from severe illness, that leaves 16 per cent vulnerable to being hospitalised or killed by Omicron. That’s up to three times as many as with Delta.  

 

Could London be hit with ‘Plan C’ before Christmas? Experts call for tougher restrictions as shock data shows Omicron now makes up 40% of all new Covid cases in capital and will be dominant by tomorrow

Fears were raised today that London could be hit with tougher restrictions before Christmas as experts called for action to curb the spread of Omicron.

Shock data shows the super mutant variant now makes up 40 per cent of cases in the capital. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the strain was on track to become dominant by tomorrow.

NHS leaders said No10 needs to be prepared to introduce stricter curbs than the current Plan B — which includes work from home guidance, face masks and vaccine passports — if Omicron is on the brink of overwhelming the NHS.  

The head of NHS Confederation, which represents hospital trusts, told MailOnline the decision to impose either national or regional restrictions should not be made lightly. 

No10 has never ruled out returning to a whack-a-mole-esque approach, even though local lockdowns have failed to control outbreaks twice. Ministers have yet to unveil a concrete list of Plan C measures, but it could entail the return of checking into hospitality venues with the Covid app, vaccine passports in smaller venues and mandatory masks in more settings. 

And Independent SAGE member Professor Karl Friston said Omicron outbreaks would ‘certainly call’ for localised measures. 

It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the strain is growing at a ‘phenomenal rate’, with officials warning there could be a million infections per day by the end of the month. 

London is still the region of England with the fastest-growing Covid outbreak, according to Government data. 

Official data show cases are growing by up to 48 per cent a week in the worst-hit boroughs of the capital, which include Barking and Dagenham, Hackney and City of London and Greenwich.

Meanwhile, the highest infection rates, where 0.7 per cent of the local population has tested positive in the past week, have been recorded in Sutton, Richmond upon Thames and Bromley.  

Official data show cases are growing by up to 48 per cent a week in the worst-hit boroughs, which include Barking and Dagenham, Hackney and City of London and Greenwich
Official data show cases are growing by up to 48 per cent a week in the worst-hit boroughs, which include Barking and Dagenham, Hackney and City of London and Greenwich

Official data show cases are growing by up to 48 per cent a week in the worst-hit boroughs, which include Barking and Dagenham, Hackney and City of London and Greenwich

The Prime Minister, pictured with NHS boss Amanda Pritchard during a visit to the Stow Health Vaccination centre in Westminster, today said: 'The risk is plainly there, we can see Omicron spiking now in London and some other parts of the country. Here in the capital it probably represents about 40 per cent of the cases. By tomorrow it'll be the majority of the cases and it's increasing the whole time'

The Prime Minister, pictured with NHS boss Amanda Pritchard during a visit to the Stow Health Vaccination centre in Westminster, today said: ‘The risk is plainly there, we can see Omicron spiking now in London and some other parts of the country. Here in the capital it probably represents about 40 per cent of the cases. By tomorrow it’ll be the majority of the cases and it’s increasing the whole time’

Omicron cases are also trending upwards across the country, with 13 per cent of new infections in the East of England caused by the variant, followed by 12 per cent in the South East and North West, according to data released by Professor Alastair Grant, a Covid modeller at the University of East Anglia

Omicron cases are also trending upwards across the country, with 13 per cent of new infections in the East of England caused by the variant, followed by 12 per cent in the South East and North West, according to data released by Professor Alastair Grant, a Covid modeller at the University of East Anglia

The UK Covid alert level was raised from level 3 to level 4 after the UK reported another 1,239 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant 

Speaking during a visit to the Stowe Health Vaccination centre in Westminster, Mr Johnson said: ‘The risk is plainly there, we can see Omicron spiking now in London and some other parts of the country.

‘Here in the capital it probably represents about 40 per cent of the cases. By tomorrow it’ll be the majority of the cases and it’s increasing the whole time.’   

Meanwhile, Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This variant is growing at a phenomenal rate. We haven’t seen anything like this before. We expect 1million infections by the end of this month. 

Boris Johnson reveals first Briton has died from Omicron as he urges nation to ‘set aside idea’ that the variant is milder 

At least one British patient has died from the Omicron coronavirus variant, Boris Johnson revealed today. 

The Prime Minister said the new strain was also causing hospital admissions and the ‘best thing’ people could do was get their booster jab.

Mr Johnson warned against being complacent about the new strain amid claims by doctors in South Africa that it is milder than past variants.

Speaking during a visit to a vaccination clinic in Paddington, West London, he said: ‘Sadly yes Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.

‘So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population. So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters.’ 

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the news underlined ‘the seriousness of the situation’.  

‘Already in London it’s gone from in three weeks from almost nothing in terms of Covid infections to 40 per cent of all infections. 

‘If you take that, this tidal wave of infection, and even if you assume as some people are saying, many people are claiming this is less severe, but lets see, lets establish the facts. 

‘But lets assume for a second even if it is less severe, a much smaller percentage of infected people that experience severe disease is still a huge number when it’s put against a large number of infections.’ 

Data from the UK Health Security Agency shows cases in London are growing fastest in Barking and Dagenham.

Some 323 people per 100,000 tested positive for Covid in the borough in the week up to November 30, which jumped to 478 per 100,000 in the seven days to December 7. 

Over the same period, cases shot up by 47 per cent in Hackney and City of London, while they jumped 44 per cent in Greenwich and Lewisham. 

Cases are also rising sharply in Southwark, climbing 42 per cent in a week, as well as Lambeth (41 per cent), Tower Hamlets (40 per cent) and Islington (40 per cent). 

Sutton is recording the highest infection rate in London, where 706 per 100,000 people were infected on any given day in the week up to December 7, followed by Richmond upon Thames (683), Bromley (633) and Hammersmith and Fulham (615).

NHS leaders told MailOnline a lockdown in London may be needed if the rising cases translate into a hike in hospitalisations and deaths. 

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of NHS Confederation, told MailOnline that extra Covid restrictions could be imposed in London and other parts of the country if high cases put pressure on the health service.

He said: ‘Decisions about reintroducing national or regionalised lockdowns should not be made lightly as they can significantly affect people’s health and wellbeing.

‘But if the modelling scenarios about the possible impact of Omicron on hospitalisations and deaths look increasingly likely, the Government should be prepared to consider introducing further interventions to prevent that.

‘We are also encouraging the public to do what they can to keep transmission down, which includes wearing face coverings, ventilating indoor settings, getting vaccinated and boosted if eligible, following hand hygiene guidance, and getting tested.’ 

The map shows the Covid infection rate across London by neighbourhoods, or middle-layer super output areas (MSOAs). In the dark purple areas the rate is above 800 cases per 100,000 people, while in the purple areas it is between 400 and 799 cases per 100,000. The dark blue areas have a rate between 200 and 399 cases per 100,000

The map shows the Covid infection rate across London by neighbourhoods, or middle-layer super output areas (MSOAs). In the dark purple areas the rate is above 800 cases per 100,000 people, while in the purple areas it is between 400 and 799 cases per 100,000. The dark blue areas have a rate between 200 and 399 cases per 100,000 

The map shows the proportion of people who are double-vaccinated against Covid in the capital. It reveals that there has been much lower jab uptake in inner city areas than on the outskirts

The map shows the proportion of people who are double-vaccinated against Covid in the capital. It reveals that there has been much lower jab uptake in inner city areas than on the outskirts

And local leaders have warned officials should ‘heed the medical experts’ advice’ on whether local restrictions are needed.

Councillor Stephen Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, where cases have jumped 26 per cent in a week, told MailOnline: ‘Hospitals are already initiating alerts warning they’re ‘struggling or unable to deliver comprehensive care’ and we’ve not even hit the winter spike yet. 

‘Just a small increase in Omicron admissions could break the NHS this winter. We all have a responsibility to stop that happening.’ 

Professor Karl Friston, scientific director at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging and Independent SAGE member, told MailOnline regional differences in the emergence of Omicron ‘would certainly call for local mitigating — or protective — public health measures’.

Figures show London’s Omicron outbreak is worse than the rest of the country.

In the East of England, 13 per cent of new cases are caused by the variant, followed by 12 per cent in the South East and North West, according to confidential Government data analysed by Professor Alastair Grant, a Covid modeller at the University of East Anglia.

Professor Friston said: ‘The most potent way of slowing viral spread is to reduce contact rates; namely, avoiding places with high transmission risk, such as the commute to work, crowded and poorly ventilated gatherings at work, school or home, et cetera.

‘This speaks to local responses that support, inform and licence such responses. In turn, this rests upon informed and clear public health messaging. And, at a national level, governmental endorsement of – and support for – local responses.’

He said the current ‘ambivalent national response’ to Omicron is fuelled by uncertainty around how severe the strain is and how quickly Omicron will spread.

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