Britain's prime minister confirmed the United Kingdom's first death from the omicron variant Monday morning and warned of an increase in infections as case numbers continue to spike.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters at a clinic that the country needs to recognize the speed at which the virus has coursed through populations.
"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 recognize the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population," Johnson said, according to CNN.
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Johnson raised the level of alert for COVID-19 on Sunday, along with accelerating the rollout of booster shots, by offering all adults the booster shot by the end of December instead of January. He has also cut the eligibility time between the second and third shot to three months instead of six.
U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it is too soon to tell if omicron is more deadly than previous variants. However, he also noted how the speed is a major difference.
"It's spreading at a phenomenal rate, something that we've never seen before — it's doubling every two to three days in infections," Javid told Sky News Monday. "That means we're facing a tidal wave of infection, we're once again in a race between the vaccine and the virus."
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The U.K. has reported 3,137 cases of the omicron variant as of Monday, with approximately 10 people hospitalized from it, according to Javid. He noted that 40% of COVID cases in London were from the variant, though Johnson warned that by Tuesday, it'll be the majority of infections.
Because of the rise in cases, Johnson, who dislikes mandates, has had to introduce new restrictions which went into effect Monday. These include workers in the U.K. being encouraged to work from home as much as possible, masks being required on public transportation and in shops, and proof of a negative test or the vaccine now being required for large events.