LONDON (AP) – The British government on Sunday raised the country’s official coronavirus threat level, warning that the rapid spread of the omicron variant would put the UK in a dangerous zone.
Chief physicians in the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said the emergence of a new strain of high permeability at a time when COVID-19 was already widespread “added an additional and rapidly increasing risk to public and health services”. . They recommended raising the warning level from 3 to 4 on a 5-point scale. High level, 5, officials think the health care system is overcrowded.
Doctors point out that preliminary data show that the omicron spreads faster than the current dominant delta variant, and that vaccines provide less protection. British officials say the omicron could replace the delta in a matter of days as the dominant strain in the UK.
“Data on severity will be clear in the coming weeks, but hospitalizations from omicron are already happening and they could grow rapidly,” they said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to make a televised statement Sunday night about the situation with the coronavirus in Britain and the booster vaccination campaign.
Concerns about the new option led Johnson’s conservative government to reintroduce restrictions that were lifted almost six months ago. In many indoor areas, masks must be worn, vaccination certificates must be shown to enter nightclubs, and people are encouraged to work from home if possible.
Many scientists say this is not enough and are calling for tougher measures.
The Johnson administration is trying to prevent this, but aims to strike a reinforcing blow to all 18-year-olds and older by the end of January.
South African scientists, who first identified the omicron, said they saw signs that it could cause less serious disease than delta, but were wary that it was too early to be sure.
The UK Health Safety Agency said on Friday that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines were less effective in preventing symptomatic infections in people exposed to omicrona, but initial data showed that efficacy increased from 70% to 75% after the third dose of the vaccine. shrinks.
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